September 19, 2019

The Youth Sub-Culture By Haley Dempsey

(Below is a paper I wrote for a competitive scholarship called the Wilberforce Scholarship at Covenant College. I had to write a paper and identify something that I saw as wrong in our culture and explain how I would address that problem through my desired career.)

When her father departed for the West Indies, Eliza Lucas was left alone with the daunting task of managing her father’s multiple plantations while also caring for her three younger siblings. Eliza met the task with great determination and eventually became one of early America’s greatest business leaders. Through her innovation she developed strains of indigo that could be exported to England and helped to increase trade in the American colonies. Her achievements with developing the indigo plant, from an unsuccessful crop in the South to the second largest export out of the colonies, earned her the place as the first woman inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. Because of the contributions she made to the American colonies, both economically and during the American Revolution, none other than President George Washington requested to be a pallbearer at her funeral. What is even more amazing is that Eliza Lucas began this remarkable journey at the age of sixteen!

For the first time in history, those who fall between the ages of thirteen and eighteen – rather than experiencing a rite of passage into adulthood – are caught in the cultural norm where little to nothing is expected of them. These years are often wasted by teenagers and seem to be a vacation from responsibility, characterized by a youth subculture that caters to the whims of teens with their own dress, language, music, vocabulary and identity – completely separate from their parents and adult responsibilities.  This mindset has hurt our nation by extending childhood into the adult years and producing a generation of children in adult bodies.  Unlike Eliza, today’s teens are ill-equipped to face the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood.

What happened in our culture to create such a low standard of expectations for teenagers? In the 1900’s laws were passed that protected children from dangerous work conditions and required them to get an education. While these laws were necessary and the writers had good intentions, they produced unforeseen consequences for the future; they created a new category of people known as teenage adolescents who are stuck in a stage between childhood and adulthood. This group eventually became characterized, for the most part, as rebellious, irresponsible, and juvenile. In the past – in every culture around the world – parents raised their children to become adults who were prepared for life and ready to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Today, however, many children are encouraged to continue in their childhood for as long as possible and do their best to avoid assuming the responsibilities of an adult.

To reform the thinking of parents and teenagers is a formidable task: it stands in direct opposition to the media, entertainment, educational and societal influences that constantly reinforce the unbiblical idea of the youth subculture. God’s calling on my life, to teach middle school English and history, will enable me to have an impact on the way our society thinks of teenagers – and more importantly the way they view themselves.

The first and most important way to see teenagers become mature young adults is by encouraging parents to lead faithfully in their homes. Parents define standards, enforce rules, set expectations, and can restrict the negative influence of the youth subculture at home. As a teacher I can work with parents to view and treat their children as young adults and bring that same mindset into the classroom. I can also provide newsletters to parents with ideas on adult responsibilities to give to students and organize workshops designed to help parents equip their teens for adulthood.

The most significant way I can influence teenagers to become young adults is in the classroom. Many teenagers – even Christian teens – have never been challenged to consider God’s calling to put away childish things and seriously pursue excellence in everything they do. This was the admonition of Paul to young Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:12 when he wrote, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” This can be applied practically in everything from writing papers, giving speeches or how students converse with each other. Requiring a standard of excellence in the classroom will stretch students beyond their comfort zones – but not beyond their capabilities – and show them that they can achieve more than they would have expected.

Another way to influence my students as a teacher would be by organizing mentoring relationships through the school. These relationships would pair older, responsible young adults with younger teenagers. This would give younger students role models to follow, provide accountability, and give opportunities to be influenced by exceptional young people rather than simply going along with the crowd. This mentoring program would also reinforce the importance of choosing wise friends and counsel as the Bible says in Prov. 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

One of the final ways I could have an influence on teenagers through my career would be to require involvement in extracurricular activities that shift the focus of teens from themselves and onto other people and stretch them beyond their comfort zones and perceived capabilities. Examples include volunteering on a political campaign, working on community projects, providing meals for the homeless, spearheading a fundraising campaign for a worthy cause, taking on a home project, running errands for elderly neighbors, or adopting an underprivileged family for the holidays. As teens are involved in activities that help others, they will see beyond themselves and learn that the world does not revolve around them. This is critical in order to overcome the natural self-centeredness of today’s teen. These activities can be coordinated through multiple sources such as parents, schools, churches and community organizations.

The ideas that I talk about are not simply theoretical, but they have been practically worked out in my own life. From the time I was old enough to sit on a pew by myself, my dad took my brothers and me to a local homeless mission where he preached several times per month. We did this every month for almost eleven years. When we would go, we would arrive an hour early to talk to the men and stay an hour or more after the service to eat a meal with them and really get to know them. We went even though there were never other children there. Although I did not realize it at the time, God was preparing my heart to have a desire to help other people and to become more focused on others rather than myself. In more recent years our church has had a ministry at a retirement home where every Lord’s Day evening one of our pastors goes to preach to the elderly. God has given me a great love for this ministry to the elderly folks who I am able to talk to and get to know. The Lord has used these experiences to help shape my thinking and fuel my passion to see teenagers rise up to be godly young adults.

And along with this desire, he has given me several opportunities to be an influence in the lives of many teenagers right now. One of the ways he has done this is through my Facebook page called “I’m A Teenager Living for Jesus.” Through this page I reach over 1,200 fans on a daily basis – and call teenagers to higher aspirations than what the world today expects or thinks they can achieve. Another way God has opened a door for me to have an influence in the lives of teens has been through starting an accountability group with some friends from church. Once a week we email each other what we have been reading in the Bible as well as prayer requests. It has been an encouragement to connect more deeply with girls who have a desire to pursue God and live for Him when so many in the world desire to only live for themselves. And through our example other friends have started similar groups in their own churches. I pray that as I continue to grow, the Lord will open more opportunities for me to encourage others to live their lives as young adults right where God has placed them.

God is calling young people to a higher standard than what the world has set for teenagers. He is calling them to stand against the culture, to be young adults like Eliza, and to demonstrate character, integrity, and a wholehearted desire to pursue the things of God right now.  Through teaching I want to help change the thinking of not only teenagers, but the thinking of parents, schools, churches, and local communities to see that the group between the ages of thirteen and eighteen should be viewed and treated as young adults. If even one community changed its thinking on this issue, it would have radical results.


  1. Great job! You chose a good topic. Hope you get that scholarship! 🙂

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