My husband and I just spent a week with 50 or so students at a church camp. After we go on church trips, we like to review the week—the pros and cons. This year, the biggest con was our students’ constant obsession with technology. Nine years ago when we took our first group of students to camp 99% of those students didn’t own a cell phone. This past week, however, not only did every student have a cell phone, but one phone we took up had 50 missed calls in 3 hours. (I don’t even want to think about what my parents would have done if my friends called our house phone 50 times in one afternoon…) My how culture has changed.
As small group leaders, we must acknowledge the challenges our students are up against. There are numerous challenges struggle with today, but for the sake of time (and blog space) let’s talk about three: obsession with technology, pressure from culture/media, and students’ strong need for acceptance.
- Obsession with technology: It is no secret that technology has taken over our culture. I just saw a commercial for a smart phone that allows you to text while watching YouTube. (Just in case the conversation you are having with your friend isn’t entertaining enough…) Don’t get me wrong. Technology is not the enemy. The challenge for our students is to not let technology own them—to learn to use technology wisely. As small group leaders we can discourage the over-use of technology during small group. We can model a healthy use of technology ourselves and better encourage them to do the same.
- Pressure from culture/media: Our students face extreme pressure from culture: pressure to be in a relationship, pressure to experiment sexually, pressure to look a certain way. Media constantly bombards students with images of who they should be and what they should do. As small group leaders, we can’t be naïve when it comes to what is “in”. If we don’t know what culture is selling, then we can’t help our students. But we also need to help them discern the lies from culture and replace them with truth from God’s word.
- Need for acceptance: You don’t have to work with a teenager long to see his or her deep need for acceptance. Everyone craves acceptance. But for a teenager, that craving is magnified a million times over. Add to that social media at their fingertips (where they constantly compare themselves to others) and culture bombarding them with suggestions for how to better fit in, it’s no wonder our students run to the wrong places for acceptance. As small group leaders the best way we can combat that is by creating safe, healthy, loving environments for our students to come to for acceptance.
Simply acknowledging what our students’ biggest struggles are is the first step in helping overcome them. How have you combated similar challenges? What do you think are some other top challenges students face today?