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Inspiring Students to Care About Social Issues

If teen spending in the U.S. tell us anything about what teens care about most, it may not surprise you to know that they spend 21% of their budget on clothing and 20% on food (according to investment management firm Piper Jaffray’s 2014 report on teen spending).

Statistics from the marketing Vox/Rand research in 2014 showed teen annual spending in the U.S. at nearly $259 billion. Are you thinking about the teens in your youth group and considering how broke they are? Maybe the kid you gave a scholarship to for camp just came to mind and these numbers don’t mean much and certainly are not a big surprise, considering our consumer society.

Here are some numbers that might matter to all youth workers a little more. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 41 million kids in the U.S. ages 10-19. Obviously that’s a lot of potential spending for all the retail stores out there and it’s not hard to see that a little bit of spending from millions of teens adds up quickly.

But guess what? Teens are more than consumers. You know it and I know it. While corporate America might see U.S. teens as a multi-billion dollar market, God sees every teen as his beloved. He knows them by name and has a great purpose for the army of teens we’ve been called to serve and disciple here in the U.S. It’s time for us to realize the potential this generation of teens has to reach the globe with the love of Jesus.

So how do we inspire the teens living in the same consumer/American dream culture that we live in to become socially responsible, globally aware, Jesus-centered, Kingdom-minded citizens?

  1. It starts with Jesus-centered leadership. Jesus set the example for a life of simplistic, obedient, humble earthly living with dynamic kingdom purpose. What kind of life are we living in front of our teens? What do we care about? What do we spend on? How do we invest our time, talents, and treasure? What social responsibilities are we taking on and how are we solving global crisis like human trafficking, lack of universal water access, and poverty?
  1. It continues with opportunity! Teen founder of iCAREweCARE, shared this with the Huffington Post a few years ago… “What we teenagers need is a way to connect to: Engaging philanthropic opportunities that address what we are passionate about. Ways to encourage giving back with our friends. And other like-minded students from around the world.” An international mission trip could even be a start!

You’re ready for this. Find out what non-profits are based in the area or state that you live in that address social and global problems. Helping your teens gain access to information and facts will fuel them for movement. Encourage them to work together and empower them to move forward. There are 41 million kids in the U.S ages 10-19. How can they join together to make an impact?

In the past year, I’ve met youth workers around the country who have encouraged teens to help solve the global water crisis. I’ve been introduced to three groups of teens who raised enough money to fly to Nicaragua to work alongside communities in need, bringing access to clean water to hundreds of people. I’ve also witnessed several youth workers who have cheered teens on as their groups raised thousands of dollars to donate to the global water crises. Some of these teens committed to spend less on food and clothing to meet the needs of someone else. Others simply saved their change and then put it into a big collection. They did it and so can you.

It’s time for us to help our teens realize that how they live, how they give their time, talents, and treasures, can have an impact on the world around them for God’s Kingdom purpose. They have a role to play in how others experience the love and provision of God on this earth.

Praying for all of you today. May you love, learn, live, and lead.

10-minute-moments-seeking-justice-12– Theresa

Written in partnership with International Justice Mission, 10-Minute Moments: Seeking Justice will help you explore what the Bible says about social justice in our world today—and how you can make a meaningful impact in other people’s lives!

One thought on “Inspiring Students to Care About Social Issues

  1. Theresa,
    Great thoughts and insight into inspiring students to engage on social issues. I agree with all you said and would add that a responsible short-term mission trip only adds to engaging students. But it can’t just be a short-term mission trip for the sake of doing short-term mission trips. While on the trip we need to engage students in the deeper injustices of life in which we serve on short-term missions (reciprocal poverty, orphan care, immigration, refugees, etc.) We need to help students stay close to and “touch” the issues in relational ways. I don’t think I’m adding anything new to what you are already doing and encouraging people to do. But just wanted to add my two sense worth.

    Thanks for your article!

    Here is a blog I wrote about engaging students in justice issues on short-term mission trips. I offer for your consideration:

    Phil Steiner
    Executive Director of

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Inspiring Students to Care About Soci...

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