Sunday, October 23, 2005

Resource - Washington Post Teenager Poll

Today's Washington Post Magazine is devoted to the results of a survey they did with involving teenagers and a variety of subjects. The survey was conducted with 800 high school age students and sponsored by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. Survey pdf file here.

It's a must read if you work with students around here. It's also probably a pretty good representative picture of students and their opinions around an urban/suburban metro area.
97% Have had a friend of a different race
65% Have taken an Advanced Placement class in school
58% Have visited or lived in a foreign country
57% Have had a friend who was openly gay or lesbian
53% Have had a friend who dropped out of school
48% Have known someone who was in a gang
47% Have had a friend who became pregnant
45% Have dated someone of a different race
21% Have had a friend who was killed or injured by gun violence
19% Have personally been a victim of crime or violence

Percentage of local teens saying each is "very important."
75% ... Being successful in a career
65% ... Having a family of your own
65% ... Having lots of close friends
64% ... Making a difference in the world
62% ... Having enough free time to do things you want to do

Break out articles include looking at:
- Stress levels of high school girls from academics (60% of local students who experience stress say school is the biggest source of stress in their life)
- African American boys and their expectations to be rich and famous
- Acceptance of gay students
- Religion and its importance to students (65% of African American students ay religion is important in everyday life versus 35% of Caucasian students)
- Race and relationships (45% have dated someone of a different race and 80% would consider marrying someone of a different race)

Here are a few ideas which are relevant for our ministry with students:
1 - These kids are unbelievably busy. They get stressed out. They have a lot going on. If we are trying to draw students into our student ministries, we have a lot to compete with. If you are building an attractional program, it better be really good. The relational aspects of our ministries need to be sensitive to these time constraints. Maybe this idea deserves a new approach to relational peer ministry. What would it look like for some of your core kids to offer homework/study hall/tutoring opportunities within the context of "there are a bunch of us that go to this church and thought it would be a good way to serve..." (totally off the top of my head)

2 - These students are a lot more multi-cultural already than most of us are. In most senses, they probably move in and out of different cultural contexts a lot better than we do. How does that relate to your Sunday high school church, small group Bible study or outreach opportunity? Do we see such a mix of cultures in our youth group environments? Me neither. How can we capitalize on their daily experience as we prepare them for summer missional experiences? (That is a question I will be thinking about more from reading this survey.)

3 - They want to make a difference, even in the midst of a violent, fast changing and tragic world. I only saw one fight when I was in high school. I didn't know any gay people. I was a bit apathetic about my future. I didn't travel to another country. My high school was mostly white kids. I didn't know anyone who was pregnant. Evidently, I was a bit sheltered and too complacent. 64% of these kids want to make a difference in the world. If you ask me, that's plenty enough optimism.

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