Who or what is the most powerful influence on teenagers? Who do teenagers look up to most as role models? These questions (or questions similar to them) have formed the basis for dozens of studies on teenagers that have been conducted over the years. The issue of teen influence is heavily researched because marketers are well aware that teenagers control an estimated 300 billiion dollars per year of discretionary income. They also know that if you can sell a teenager on a brand or product while they are young, there’s a strong likelihood they will remain loyal for the rest of their lives. That’s also one of the reasons why I believe so much in youth ministry. Lifelong disciples of Jesus are more often than not called while they are teenagers. That was true for me as it was for a number of Jesus’ original twelve.
So another study on teen influence has been conducted (this one by the Barna Group) and the results of that new study were just released. The good news for me is that I won’t have to revise any of my teaching notes on this subject anytime soon. Well, I may need to update the clothing styles on the kids on our graphic at the right, but otherwise, everything stays the same.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been teaching and writing that the most powerful influences on teenagers are not (as some might suppose) the entertainment media and same-age peers. The primary influences on teenagers are (1) their parents, followed next by (2) their extended family (grandparents and other close relatives), then (3) caring adults like teachers, coaches, youth ministers and others who care enough to come alongside them in some meaningful way. This was not only true for me personally but it was confirmed by several studies that were conducted almost thirty years ago.
What’s interesting about the more recent studies on this topic is that researchers now assume the dominant position of parents in the pecking order of teen influence. That was not always the case. David Kinneman, who conducted the Barna reseach, explains that “parents were left out of the assessment because so many teenagers—particularly younger ones—have high regard for their parents or feel compelled to list their parents as role models. Previous research shows that mentioning parents is almost … automatic.” So the question teenagers were asked in this study was “Who, besides your parents, do you admire the most as a role model?”
Their answer? The most commonly mentioned role model according to this new study is a relative, most typically a grandparent. Next on the list—you guessed it—teachers and coaches. Way down the list (after people they know personally) come celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, musicians and the like.
When asked why they chose who they did as role models, teenagers responded by saying that these people “are always there for me” or “are most interested in my future.”
Who influenced you most when you were a teenager?
Slacker.com is a great internet radio station offering just about every genre of music for free, 24 hours a day. I listen to it on my computer in my office and also on my phone (Android).
Slacker is based here in the San Diego area. They contacted me several years ago and asked to serve as a music consultant for their bluegrass station.
From what I understand, that’s what makes Slacker different from other internet radio stations like Pandora. Each Slacker station is professionally programmed by someone who really knows something about the genre. It’s not programmed by a computer.
You can, however, create your own station by using Slacker’s computer. Just enter the name of your favorite recording artist and Slacker will create a customized radio station with music by your favorite plus others who are similar. You can skip songs you don’t want to hear or play songs over and over. It’s pretty cool.
Slacker is free, but the free version includes commercials. Pay a small fee and you can get rid of the commercials and do a few other things that you can’t do on the free version.
The bluegrass station is a sub-genre of Slacker’s “Country” station. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Lighthouse, the bluegrass band I play in (occasionally) reunited for a couple of performances in December.
The first was at the North County Bluegrass and Folk Club in Escondido, an annual tradition for us. The people there are always so generous with their enthusiasm for our music, and this year they not only brought us back for an encore but bought us out of CD’s. (Pity the poor souls who get a Lighthouse CD for Christmas!) But it felt good to play a full set of music with my bandmates. It has actually been a year since we did that last. We only played twice all last year, once in my backyard for Easter and another short appearance at College Avenue Baptist Church in August.
Our second performance was at Shadow Mountain Community Church, part of their annual “Shadow MountainChristmas” celebration/concert. We did three shows, performing one song titled “Follow the Light,” a Christmas song that I learned from the McLain Family Band about 35 years ago. In the concert, we followed a mariachi band (a first for us I think) and enjoyed jamming with them backstage in the dressing room. They couldn’t speak English very well but the language of music seemed to connect us pretty well. I can now pick out a little “La Bamba” on my banjo.
All in all, playing with Lighthouse has been one of the bright spots for me this Christmas season so far. This time of year seems to add so much stress and anxiety, with all the busyness and responsibilities that go with it (especially now that I’m on a church staff). But getting to play some music once again has brought some extra joy into the season for me.
What I need to do now is take some time to focus on the real source of our joy at Christmas, the child who came to us at Bethlehem. Curiously, I am finding that being on a church staff doesn’t automatically make that possible.
This has been a difficult year for Marci and me in many ways … yet also one with many blessings. I know that the shortest route to joy is the path of thanksgiving, so that’s where I must go. As I look back on the year, I see a new church and a new ministry, a new granddaughter (beautiful Layla!), a new kitchen (under rather trying circumstances but new nevertheless), new friends, new experiences (like attending junior high camp at Forest Home and watching our son do his thing), new books in print, new health insurance (Medicare!), and the list goes on. God is so good. The child who comes to us in the manger every year is not only our Savior, but a perfect picture of the goodness of God, the best of all his gifts to us. He is the source of our joy.
What brings you joy this Christmas?
Since my book Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again] came out last month it has received a few very positive reviews that have been very encouraging to me. To tell you the truth, I was worried about how this book would be received. As I was writing it, a little voice kept whispering in my ear: “Nobody’s going to want to read what you have to say about youth ministry … you’re almost 65 years old for crying out loud!” and “Who do you think you are, writing about your early life as if you were a big celebrity or something?” The voices got louder as the publication date for the book neared and quite honestly I was a bit nervous waiting for it to come out.
Well, it’s out now and I have been very blessed by the positive reviews that the book has received so far.
These reviews were solicited by InterVarsity Press from three friends of mine who are also respected voices in youth ministry. They read copies of the manuscript before the book was published:
This book reads like a novel, incites like a prophet, engages like a story, reports like a history, coaches like a veteran and encourages like a pastor. Wayne Rice is absolutely one of the pioneers of modern-day youth ministry. But don’t read this book looking for nostalgia. The whole thrust of this amazingly honest, insightful and hopeful youth ministry critique is about looking backwards only long enough so that we don’t repeat (or make new) mistakes going forward. I couldn’t have written this book with the eyewitness authenticity that Wayne has written it with, but I’ve felt and thought much of what it says. Wayne Rice is still giving youth workers IDEAS they can use.”
—Dr. Duffy Robbins, professor of youth ministry, Eastern University
“All of us in youth ministry owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne Rice. Depending on your age, Wayne’s your youth ministry brother, father or grandfather. With this book, our debt just got bigger. All of us would be wise to sit at the feet of this youth ministry pioneer as he tells us the ups and downs of his own ministry story; shares the kind of deep wisdom and perspective that can only come with years of experience; and challenges us to live, think and minister with biblical integrity. Youthworkers have benefited from Wayne Rice’s experience and wisdom for well over forty years. And now, we should be listening more than ever.”
—Walt Mueller, president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, and author of Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture
“Wayne Rice is (still) one of the most authentic, honest voices speaking into the world of youth ministry. I have loved reading Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). It is unlikely that we will reinvent youth ministry well in this generation without a clear and accurate picture of where we came from. Wayne helps us do both, with passion, intensity and his characteristic gentle wisdom.”
—Mark DeVries, founder of Youth Ministry Architects and author of Sustainable Youth Ministry
Here are some other reviews from blog posts, web articles, online booksellers and the like:
I have also received several very encouraging e-mails from readers who took time to write but I won’t post them here since they were not intended for public consumption.
Needless to say I no longer hear the voice telling me that this book isn’t going to be well received. Now if it would only sell a few copies … !
I just returned from the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville (Youth Specialties). I was a speaker at both the Nashville and the San Diego YS conventions this year, an honor for me given that I’m well past my prime as a youth ministry expert. What I am these days is a walking youth ministry museum.
But YS president Tic Long graciously invited me to do a couple of seminars this year based on recent books I’ve written and I really enjoyed participating in both conventions. At the San Diego convention I also got to do a seminar with my son Nate on camping. Since I really don’t know all that much about camping, I basically slow-pitched some questions to Nate (who DOES know a lot about camping) which he hit out of the park. It was a good seminar, if I must say so myself.
One of the really fun things I got to do this year was lead a few old youth ministry songs at one of the main (“big room”) sessions. In Nashville, the “big room” was the Bridgestone Arena, a huge hockey palace across the street from the convention center where some of the biggest concerts and events in Nashville take place. It was quite a rush to lead several thousand youth workers in a half dozen or so songs like “Pass it On” and “Pharoah Pharoah.” From the response I got, I think everybody really enjoyed singing those old songs. As it turned out, I warmed up the crowd for the band Jars of Clay who brought things pretty much up to date.
I think the highlight of the convention in Nashville for me was hearing Mark Yaconelli speak. I sat high up in the stands and alternately laughed and cried as he presented a beautifully crafted message on what it means to serve God in ministry. Now in his 40’s, Mark has become the spitting image of his dad Mike who I had the opportunity to work with for more than a quarter century. It’s obvious that Mark has inherited the formidable speaking talent of his father (with many of the same gestures and mannerisms) yet he clearly communicates in a style of his own which is passionate, fresh and insightful. He had that huge crowd in the palm of his hand for 45 minutes or so, and me in particular. Having known Mark since the day he was born, I loved hearing him speak so skillfully and powerfully. I couldn’t keep from wondering if somehow up in Heaven, Mike wasn’t enjoying all this too and feeling very proud.
I was only at the Nashville convention two of the five days, but I did see a lot of old friends and catch up a bit with some of them. I also had my first opportunity to get acquainted with Paul Bertelson, the founder and CEO of YouthWorks, the organization that now owns Youth Specialties. YouthWorks is a ministry that has a real heart for youth ministry and as the co-founder of Youth Specialties, I’m very grateful to these good folks for taking on the challenge of keeping YS moving forward, especially during such tough economic times. From all that I heard and saw at both conventions, they are doing a great job.
Last year I wrote a book summarizing pretty much all that I have to say about the past, present and future of youth ministry. The book is titled Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again]: From Bells and Whistles to Flesh and Blood and it was just released this month by InterVarsity Press. I began my youth ministry career in 1963 as a Youth for Christ club director, ran junior high summer camps at Forest Home, served as a youth director in a couple of Nazarene churches, then started Youth Specialties with my old pal Mike Yaconelli. All of that took place long before many of today’s youth workers were even born.
So I thought I would share some of that history as a kind of memoir, along with a few observations on how youth ministry has grown and changed (for better and for worse) over the past 40 years. The book contains a lot of stories, a few rants, and my best shot at trying to describe what good youth ministry should look like in the future. I put all of this down in a book and was simply amazed that a respected publisher like IVP would agree to publish it.
To tell you the truth, I’ve been pretty nervous about how this book would go over. There are so many voices better qualified than me to write about youth ministry. And I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that anyone would want to read another youth ministry book by a relic of youth ministry like me. (“Um, like wasn’t his last youth ministry book written in the last century?”)
Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again] has only been out a couple of weeks now but the response has been pretty gratifying. A couple of friends who got advance copies said they couldn’t put it down. And I was just blown away by the kind endorsements written by Duffy Robbins, Walt Mueller and Mark DeVries on InterVarsity’s website. Best of all, my son Nate gave the book two thumbs up and my wife Marci told me it was the best I’ve ever written. That’s about all the affirmation I need, really.
I’m just very grateful. My prayer now is that it will be used by God to encourage better youth ministry in the future and result in more and more young people coming to know, love and serve Jesus for years to come.
This was a fun little sketch that the YS gang invited me to do a few weeks ago. It was about 110 degrees outside when we filmed this inside a car with the AC off and the windows rolled up. I kept flubbing my lines so after about 5 takes, we were both about to die of heat stroke. Christina Robertson is the middle school director at Journey Community Church and formerly worked with the middle schoolers at College Avenue Baptist, where I now serve as Pastor to Generations.
Last week a family band performed live on my radio show called The Anderson Family. They are from Grass Valley, California and had come to the San Diego area to perform at Summergrass and also the monthly San Diego Bluegrass Society “Boll Weevil” gig on the fourth Tuesday of the month. The Anderson Family features dad on the banjo, mom on the bass and their four kids, ages 8 to 16 on the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and Dobro. The youngest plays the Dobro and I’m certain she is the youngest Dobro player I’ve ever seen.
I’ve written before about kids in bluegrass and how they provide an example (for me, anyway) that today’s kids are fully capable of choosing a path other than the one that today’s pop culture and a billion-dollar marketing industry is offering them. I was very impressed by the Anderson Family and I applaud Mark and Christy Anderson for their willingness to set aside the time and make the effort to encourage their children to use their talents and to help them to achieve their goals. In my conversation with them (you can listen to it here) the children told about their daily schedule of practicing and working hard to get better as musicians. They also were given the opportunity to hear and learn from some of their musical heroes who were accessible and willing to encourage and teach them some things. Neither Mark nor Christy are professional musicians.
There’s much here for Christian parents to learn from. I’ve always believed that if we take the time and make the effort to teach and encourage our children to use their talents and gifts to serve Jesus, and if we expose them to enough real-live heroes of the faith who will encourage them also, they may just choose a different path from the one that the world is offering them.
I’ve watched quite a few kids grow up playing bluegrass music in a family band and then abandon it when they became adults, but I’ve also watched many who went on to become some of the most accomplished musicians in the world. In fact, most of our biggest stars in bluegrass and country music today started playing in kid bands or family bands. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Anderson’s as they get older and I’ll be cheering them on. They have a lot of talent and most importantly the environment where their talent can flourish.