May/June 2010 - Vol. 40

Quo Vadis?
Is Christian Youth Culture Possible?
an interview with Michael Shaughnessy,
Director for Kairos North America

KYCN: Mike, those who know you, know you have lot's of ideas about youth and youth work. What's next?
Mike: Christians pray that God's kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven – on earth, not just in heaven. We shouldn't settle for something less than the kingdom. We too easily accept the prevailing culture as inevitable. Unfortunately, that means many young people are missing out on the hope, joy, beauty and goodness that God intends for them on earth (not to mention heaven.) Many Christian parents and youth workers are limited by a strategy that just tries to keep evil out. They must say "NO!" over and over again, or just give up and give in. In Kairos we see this challenge and are doing something about it. Our goal is to build a positive youth culture that promotes whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious (Phil. 4:8). This includes more than just whatever is spiritual. It includes every area of human culture: food, sports, games, music, art, dress…

KYCN: Why not just eliminate youth culture totally!
Mike: Eliminating youth culture is impossible to do. Isolating Christian youth from youth culture completely is also unrealistic. Even the Amish admit that. More importantly, we have a commission from Christ to bring the gospel to the world. We should not just write off youth culture. We should want to transform it and those who live in it. Besides, shaping today's youth means shaping tomorrow's world leaders.

KYCN: Creating a new youth culture... That seems like a lot of work!
Mike: Oh, it will be. It was a lot of work to build Florence Cathedral, but it was done. I think we need to do this and for two good reasons. First, we lose too many young people to the powerful world of youth culture. Their lives get messed up. They lose what faith they have. We need to provide an alternative culture, a whole culture – not just a good youth group and some Christian music. We need to provide a place where youth can flourish. The second reason we should do it is exactly because this mission is big. Its vision is big. It will provide a place in mission for all sorts of our young people, not just youth workers. This mission will need businessmen and women, web designers, musicians, writers, clothes designers, video editors, sound geeks... That's a short list. I have a longer one and it's growing.

KYCN: Where do you begin?

Mike: Like with any good project – get the right people and the funding. I think I have some of the people. I am hoping our readers will help with the funding.

[Michael Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people.].

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