Articles | Culture
Chris Schaffner

Chris is a CADC certified counselor working with chemically dependent persons and those with co-occurring disorders. Chris has worked in the field for 7 years and has worked with children and teens for over 15 years. Chris is also the coordinator for The Shelter, a ministry of Group Publishing that provides support to children’s and youth workers from around the world. He has worked with individuals of all ages who struggle with addiction, abuse histories, self injury, depression and suicide. Chris has provided training locally on suicide assessment and on working with the LGBTQ population. Chris provides training at SYMC, KidMin, UYWI, Operation Snowball events, Chicago HOPES and Access Living, CCDA Annual Conference, OtraOnda Dimension Juvenil Conference, has taught parenting and Anger Management classes, and teaches a community-based series called ‘Coping With…” that equips adolescent with life management skills. Chris lives in Central Illinois and is married to Trudy. They have 4 kids; Blake, Charley Grace, and the twins Claire and Chloe.

The age of one-size-fits-all youth ministry is over.  It has to be.  We live in a dynamic time filled with diversity.  This is an exciting time to be in ministry to youth.  Our world is smaller than ever before.  Cultures are not only clashing but blending to create new expressions of culture.  In this new era of modern life (culture) context is king.

Think about your average youth group gathering.  Think about the different elements that are present in your group:

  • Countries of origin
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religious background
  • Parenting styles that shaped them
  • Generational influences
  • Abilities and disabilities
  • Personality
  • Sexual orientation
  • Political leanings
  • Thinking styles
  • Values and beliefs
  • Style and tastes

Historically we would rush in with an attempt to connect with kids on our terms with our own personal culture leading the way (just a heads up, I’m pretty sure nobody listens to Petra anymore so don’t lead with that).  In other words, just like early missionaries did, we would try to strip them of their own culture and colonize them to be, think, look, and act just like us.  It’s no wonder they have gone underground.


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Cultural Artifacts:

  • Instant digital music, iPods, YouTube videos, Facebook, etc.
  • What other cultural artifacts can you think of, as it relates to contemporary youth?

Values and Assumptions:

  • Individualism, consumerism, instant gratification, collaborations, cause-driven, tolerance, etc.
  • What other values and assumptions can you identify that are held by youth today?
  • Where did these values and assumptions come from?

Individual Personalities:

  • Jocks, emo, nerds, Queen Bee, bully, outgoing, shy, obnoxious, flirty, school spirit, etc.
  • What is the current dominant personality being presented by each individual student?
  • Is there a connection between the personality and behaviors?

Often, all we see are the cultural artifacts and we base our own assumptions on these.

David Livermore, in his book Cultural Intelligence, says:

“When measuring your Cultural Intelligence, a few questions to ask yourself include:

  • Am I conscious of what I need to know about a culture that is unfamiliar to me?
  • Am I conscious of how my cultural background shapes the way I read the Bible?
  • Do I determine what I need to know about a culture before I interact with people from that culture?
  • Do I compare my previous ideas about a culture with what I actually experience during cross-cultural interactions?
  • Do I check for appropriate ways to talk about my faith in cross-cultural situations?”

Is it fair to expect that we should be intentionally asking ourselves these questions as it relates to working with youth today? Can you image the amazing discussions you can have with your volunteers as you wrestle with these kinds of questions?

– Chris / @conversefringe

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  • gabe09 gabe09 says:

    I agree that we need to be aware of the culture of our students. But what makes us unique is our own culture and how God is using who we are to reach these young people. There needs to be a balance of this and us not trying to be one of their friends from school, but someone they can trust and know will always be honest with them. The second part is, we need to make sure we are not compromising the Word of God in trying to reach them. Too many youth pastors are not using the Word of God to reach the youth but using events. This is one reason we have a decline in youths staying in church after graduation.

    • Totally agree with you Gabe about not compromising. I am advocating for being better students of their culture. How do you and your staff do that where you’re at?

      • gabe09 gabe09 says:

        I get involved in their lives, and am totally honest with them about stuff in my own personal life. I am smart and calculate the risk against the reward when I divulge my personal lie with them. I have a rule with the youth: they can ask me anything and I will answer them honestly.

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