What is modern culture teaching our youth about marriage? Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore reportedly had an ‘open marriage’ but filed for divorce after six years or marriage. Kim Kardashian was married all of 72 days when she filed for divorce. And they’re hardly an exception in movie- and show business land.
Meanwhile, on popular TV series marriage seems to mean nothing either. People get married and get divorced just like that. Think Alex and Izzie and George and Callie on Grey’s Anatomy. Think Mr Shuester on Glee, or Gibbs on NCIS.
There used to be a time where the most popular series were about families, marriages…The Cosby Show, Growing pains, Family Ties. But these days are long gone. What youth now sees about marriage it’s that it’s temporary, fleeting, meaningless. It’s fun until it isn’t anymore and then there’s divorce. They see it everywhere, including in their own families.
What does this mean for youth ministry? How do we react to the modern view on marriage? If we want our youth to have good, string marriages later in life, we’ll need to contradict what culture teaches them. We need to model marriage to our youth. We need to show them that marriage is sacred, special, God’s plan. We need to teach a Biblical view on marriage any way we can. Here’s how:
1. Model marriage yourself
If you are married and you’re a youth leader, you have a great opportunity to model marriage to your youth. Be open about the highs and lows of your marriage (without going into detail, I’m not saying you should tell them too much personal stuff!). Let youth know what marriage means, that it’s normal to fight every now and then, but that you stay and don’t quit at the first sign of trouble.
One aspect of modern culture that in my opinion strongly influences youth, is the aspect of ‘waiting for Mr/Mrs Right’. They are taught, shown, that they should demand someone who is perfect for them, who gives them everything they want, who meets their needs. If someone can’t, you dump him or her until you find the right person.
We all know marriage doesn’t work like that. If you focus on someone else to meet your needs, you will always end up being disappointed, hurt and heartbroken even. Nobody is perfect and no human can truly give us what we need. It’s so important that we teach youth marriage isn’t about what you want or need, it’s about loving the other as Christ has loved us.
Another thing I see way too often is the ‘demand’ that their future husband or wife is ‘hot’. I read two excellent posts recently dealing with this issue and I recommend you read these and model them to your youth: Do Looks Matter and Priority #1: She must be hot.
2. Teach God’s view on marriage
Use current events like celebrities’ divorces to talk about marriage with your youth. Teach them that God has created marriage, that it’s a Biblical concept. If we even want youth to grasp what the union between Christ and His bride, the church, means, we’d better make sure they understand what a marriage means to God.
We have to understand that our teaching is very much in conflict with what they see in the culture around them. We need to address this, make them aware of the clash between what the Bible teaches us (monogamy, marriage for life, a self-sacrificing love between husband and wife) and what their culture shows (open marriages, affairs, divorce if you don’t like it anymore, love as a feeling instead of a choice).
We need to model marriage to our youth any way we can. Too often we focus only on the aspect of sex, limiting our teaching to the ‘true love waits’ message. I’m convinced that if we can show them how God intended marriage, if we can convey how truly special being married is, how magical this eternal union between man and wife is, it will not only make the no-sex message a lot stronger, it will also change their views on marriage.
We need to make youth enthusiastic about marriage, believers in marriage, fans even. Yes I know, it sounds rather melodramatic. But I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do.
There’s nothing in the world I value more than my marriage. God has brought me and my husband together seventeen years ago and I’m grateful every day. I’m a better person for being married to my husband and I believe I bring out the best in him as well. We fight, we have our bad days and even bad seasons, but we stay. I made a promise to stay married until death parts us or Jesus returns, and I intend to keep that promise.
I long for my youth to do the same, to find fulfillment in marriage as God has intended it (if God has willed them to get married). And I want to do everything I can to help them get there.
p.s. I realize not all of you are married and that for some of you this topic is painful. Maybe you’re single, in a bad marriage, or divorced and hurt because of it. I’m truly, deeply sorry about that. I truly wish and pray God will bring healing to you…