youth ministry 3.0 is the working title of a book i’ve mostly written, which is expected to release this fall. it’s an attempt to name where and how we’re missing the mark in youth ministry, and what needs to change in order to more truly live into our calling as youth workers.
we’ve decided to open up the book a bit and solicit youth worker contributions as sidebar comments, and i’m going to use my blog for this purpose. until late april, i’ll be posting a series of snapshots from the rough draft of the manuscript. i invite lots of comments — questions, disagreements, ideas, very short stories or examples, reflections — which will be considered as additions to the book.
by posting a comment, you are giving permission for your comment, with your screen name, to be added to the print book.
so, here’s the third bit, from chapter 2, “A proposal for framing change in youth culture“:
Adolescence (as you likely know) is a fairly recent cultural phenomenon. Wait. Let me be Captain Obvious and take a step backward to this: Adolescence is a cultural phenomenon (recent or not).
Sure, there are loads of physiological markers, transitions and uniquenesses. We can talk about (or, more accurately: I could write about) cognitive development and emotional changes and relational groupings and moral/spiritual shift for a long time. I could write a long chapter or two about the exciting new developments in adolescent brain research, and what some of the implications might be for youth ministry. These excursions are tempting, as they are both a passion of mine, and a way to bulk this book up into a “real book” size. But I’ll resist, as it’s not my point. That said, adolescence clearly has biological, developmental, physiological markers and boundaries.
But adolescence is still a cultural phenomenon.
Let’s face it: girls, pretty much from the first daughter of Eve, were having a first period (menarche) – the physiological marker of the onset of puberty in girls. But there was no adolescence – at least not a culturally acknowledged period of time – until about 100 years ago . There was “youth”, but not adolescence. Youth was merely another word for child. And that made sense, given the context.
So what was it, about 100 years ago, that caused G. Stanley Hall to use the term adolescence, in his book by the same title? Hall had observed a new culturally accepted “holding period” – a pause button – between the carefree life of a child and the expectations of adulthood. This pause, which Hall called adolescence, was culture’s way of providing teenagers with a respite to wrestle with a few particularly adolescent issues.
Hall talked about adolescence being a time of “Storm and Stress” (a hat tip to the German Sturm und Drang movement). Hall wrote that this developmental phase had three key elements, common to all: conflict with parents, mood disruptions, and risky behavior.
Furthermore – and central to the notion of this book – Hall began (in the book Adolescence, and in subsequent books and lectures) to talk about the tasks of adolescence in a three-fold manner which, while exact wording gets bantered about and tweaked by different people, hasn’t really changed much in more than 100 years. I’ll return to this in a moment. [ysmarko comment: i think i might not have this paragraph correct, and am researching more. i know erickson, in the 50s, was the one who popularized the notion of identity being a key task of adolescence, and i’m not clear — yet — if these three tasks were defined in any substantive way prior to that time. i have hall’s thick and old book, and am looking; and i have the manuscript out to a few professors to check for accuracy.]