look to asia
Thursday June 07th 2007, 6:48 am
Filed under: youth ministry, thinking..., youth work, news

let’s face it: the united states hasn’t been leading most international youth trends for many years (which is an interesting sociological question, since it is almost universally agreed that the u.s. is responsible for creating youth culture). don’t get me wrong — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. i’m not lamenting this fact, nor suggesting anything other than where we ought to look to see what’s coming down the pike.

for a decade or so, it seems we’ve looked to the u.k., primarily, and some other european cultural centers (copenhagen, paris, and so on) for clues about youth culture in a few more years. (btw, i think we do this within the states also, as we look to nyc and los angeles teens for cues that will often trickle down to other parts of the states in the following year or two.)

well, it’s time for change.

it’s time to acknowledge, i believe, that asia has surpassed europe as the precurser of things to come, in many (not all) ways. watch this video of facts, but together by paul mcgregor for mtv asia (ht to anastasia at ypulse), then i’ll resume my ramblings…


i don’t think technology is the only thing driving this shift — i say that pre-emptively, with the assumption that some would suggest just that. and i DO think the implications are going to land on much more than youth culture. i blogged a year ago about a short talk i was asked to give on the “the world in 10 years” for the youth ministry executive council. i referenced daniel pink’s book, , (which i blogged about here, and here, among other places), and wrote this:

A few facts from the book:

- Each year, universities and colleges in India produce 350,000 new engineering graduates.
- Half of the Fortune 500 companies now outsource to India.
- 1 out of 10 IT job will move overseas (to Asia) in the next 2 years; 1 out of 4 by 2010.
Our issue isn’t the outsourcing of jobs, of course.

But what will it mean for our affluent and resourced churches and youth ministries when our country, religiously, looks more like Europe, and the thriving, model-creating influence in the church is coming from Asia? Will be have the humility to learn and grow?

so here’s a few truly from-the-hip thoughts rolling around in my head at this moment:

- the rise of asian youth culture as a world influencer (and, in some ways, a “snapshot of the future”) is being accelerated by population. another way of saying this: the u.s. played a role in creating youth culture, in part, because we had a crazy number of youth. that’s asia now; and, even, 100-fold moreso.

- it will be very interesting to see how cultural prejudices play into all of this. for instance, american stereotypes of british youth have them as hip and edgy, rockers and ravers, full of attitude and independance. american stereotypes of asian youth have them as techno-hip geeks (guys) or techno-hip animaetrixes (girls) (ooh, did i just make up a word?). will these stereotypes be compounded or dismantled? will an asian dominance in the globalized youth culture force a shift in our perceptions and stereotypes to something more self-selected by asian teens themselves?

- as i wrote above: will americans, and, particularly, american church leaders, have the humility to be led? let’s face it: americans like to lead, not follow. are we ready to follow, with humility? my skeptical hunch: we will be forced to acknowledge some models, theologies and approaches, but will (i’m speaking especially of the church here) rush to identify those we want to “claim” as our influence, thereby retaining power and control; and, in doing so, will only select those influences that most reflect our own values.

- if asian youth culture becomes more globally dominant, as i’m suggesting, how will the tension of youthful independance and asian family loyalty (there’s a name for this, and i’m blanking on it) play out in american (and european) contexts?

a related post:
explosion of youth cultures around the world

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

If asian (should that be capitalized?) youth culture is the up-and-coming, I would also ask this question: What does that mean for the influence of religion? Right now Islam seems to be a tremendously growing religion around the world. While it’s certainly in some Asian countries, Hinduism is extremely strong in India, and I’m not sure what’s strongest in China. How will those religions influence the youth culture here, and especially the Christian culture, ie. how much of their philosophies will the Church allow to seep into our beliefs?

Comment by Paul Loeffler 06.07.07 @ 9:20 am

Mark: I was pleased to discover your blog this morning. Humility among American church leaders is a high priority for our mutual intercession. Thanks for drawing that to our attention. You may or may not recall that we served together at Scripture Press about 20 years ago. God bless your leadership with YS.

Comment by Mr. B. J. Slinger 06.07.07 @ 1:40 pm

Great comment by Paul. My mind was wandering that direction until I read your last thought re: American Youth & their independence and the family structure of the Asian culture.
What great questions! As a Youth Director/Worship Pastor at my church I’ve totally seen the beginning churnings of this. The number 1 way I keep up with my youth is through texting. EVEN IF IT’S TEXTING THROUGH FACEBOOK! It’s sent to their phone and they respond with their phone. They ALL have phones! Then it’s through calling and typically lastly through email.
They’re engrossed with entertainment. Spending more money on games, going to see movies, renting movies, music, etc.
AND I think that this will probably be a bigger problem for “us” or the “leaders” than it will be for them. Our students, or at least mine, don’t seem to be caught up in racial or ethnic circles. It seems they are much more willing to mingle with kids sharing the same life experiences/troubles/heartaches/joys/etc. no matter if that student is white, black, yellow, orange, etc.
LOVED this post, sorry for the ramblings here, its the way I process. You’ve got me thinking!

Comment by WorshipCity 06.07.07 @ 1:41 pm

bj! wow — as soon as i saw your name, and before i read your comment, i thought to myself, “i wonder if that’s the bj slinger i worked with at scripture press back in the dark ages?” wow!

Comment by marko 06.07.07 @ 1:49 pm

Hey Marko,

Love the site, what a great resource. And great post! As a small church youth group, we’ve talked a few times lately as to what it would be like to be Christians amongst real physical persecution.

I am really curious, do you know of any resources (online or written) that would talk about what is going on specifically in youth culture in a place like China within the church? How as Christian young people do they live, function, and grow in their faith as a community of young believers amongst persecution?

Thanks for all your work and to the YS team for committing to being beyond reproach on every level.


Comment by Ryan Cardinal 06.07.07 @ 6:53 pm

Curious how commerce is the driver here - Europe reigned as a buying base, but demographics there have aged. So now Asia can buy for their adolescents.

What about the influence of continents where adolescents are not a dominant buying base - Latin America, Africa.

The core of it for me is how much of “teenage culture” is premised on commerce & consumerism. Is the precursor of what is to come focussed only on what 15 yr-old girls will buy ?

Comment by bob c 06.07.07 @ 7:57 pm

Interesting article, as an Asian youth worker, well a youth worker in New Zealand which is geographicaly Asian but demographicaly European (though becomming Asian). I’ve had a fair bit to do with your ‘typical’ Asian young person and the facts quoted in the video are very descriptive of what I see.
One observation I would make though is that Asian culture tends to subvert, After WWII many Japanese took on the culture of their captures (European/North American) _ it’s a cultural value. But in doing that they also subverted it, accentuating and overplaying aspects’. In the 60’s you had the whole Beateles phenomenon, screaming teenager girls and the like. In Japan the screaming is amplifed a thousand times and it’s boys screaming too, hence subverted. Asian Teen culture tends to be North American and European Culture interepreted through Asian eyes.
What you end out with is something very different. But it is not just Japan - it is across Asia (I suspect it has been the historical cross polinisatin of cultures that have made this a regional phenomenon) MTV Asia is a prime example - a very American slice of pop culture that has been subverted and rechanneled as something authenticaly Asian.
Asian and European/North American culture then are intimatly linked, I think we do need to look more to Asia, but in doing so I think we may see something that is also slightly familiar.

Great Blog by the way

Comment by Michael 06.07.07 @ 10:41 pm

Fascinating watching and reading. I’ll wait and see how this turns out, I can’t wrap my mind around what will happen - too many variables.

Comment by David Mackey 06.08.07 @ 9:55 pm

these guys can help, too:


peace + blessings,

Comment by 06.09.07 @ 3:37 am

That last question seems to be the one that concerns me the most. As I see the youth of America as very “miss independent”, what will the animae, asia rock, asian family dynamic do to the american Teen? So far they have captured a huge audience through cable TV, comics, and movies. Even G.I Joe is influenced by Animae cartoons (have you watched it lately?) But I would venture to say the american teen won’t hold to the asian family values until the adults in the culture hold it to some sort of value, especially the men of the families.

Comment by Jose 06.19.07 @ 1:43 pm

I am an Asian-American youth pastor working with Filipino churhces, first in Chicago and now in Orange County. From my small experiences in Asia, it seems that there is a definite, even dramatic, break for youth culture. And there are many concerns, sometimes reactive, as Asian youth desire to break from the filial system in pursuit of more individualistic tendencies.

But, in light of all this, it would be interesting to see how Asian-American Christians, especially younger christians, see themselves not just culturally, but also missiologically.

Comment by Kuya G 06.20.07 @ 4:45 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: