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Youth Ministry Economics: Birthday Shopping For My Teenager

So my wife and I were trying to get a little ahead of the curve and get our oldest daughter a couple of presents for her birthday earlier this year. I was sitting in my living room and looking for some headphones online. She wanted some new ones and was interested in the over-the-ear style that’s popular now. I went through the typical process of reading some reviews and was amazed at how much headphones can cost. Obviously, if you are a professional audio engineer, you probably need a pretty good set. What you can’t ignore though is that everywhere you look you see someone with expensive headphones and “Beats” are some of the most common ones.

So I started doing a little bit of research about headphone sales. In the United States alone we spent $2 billion on headphones in 2010. This is in the middle of what was called an economic crisis or recession for our country! “A typical pair of Beats sell for about $300 — nearly 10 times the price of the ear buds that come with iPods. And, despite these lean economic times, they are selling surprisingly fast,” wrote NY Times columnist Andrew Martin. Well, I ended up getting my daughter a highly rated pair of economical headphones and she loves them. I tested them out and they sound great. I also checked out the $200+ headphones at Target the other day and really they don’t remotely sound 10 times better.

So what does this have to do with youth ministry? Here are a few thoughts as we work for transformation in the lives of young people both in our homes and throughout the church:

We have a very skewed sense of what “quality” means.
I’ve always liked to buy good quality things. I trust certain brands due to their consistent quality, but there is a limit. We need to be more honest. Deep down inside most of us we would drive a Mercedes, wear a Ralph Lauren polo, or put some Beats audio over our ears so that everyone will recognize our “status.” Is that something that we want to pass on to the next generation? We worry so much about access to “quality” when most of the teenagers around the world worry about access to food, clean water and education.

Do we really need to enable teens’ level of narcissism more by leading them to think that they need “professional” equipment to enjoy life?

We buy our kid the same baseball glove that Derek Jeter uses, or the same laptop that a top graphic designer works on. And the crazy thing is that we’ve programmed them to think they deserve it! What’s even crazier is that most of them don’t really appreciate it. I’ve learned while visiting more than 40 countries around the world that happiness isn’t dependent on money. A recent study showed that only 57% of US teens consider themselves to be a happy (compared with 61% world-wide).

We need to use these kinds of opportunities to teach generosity.
I was very happy with my two teenage daughters (17 and 13 years old) this past Christmas. They suggested that we not really spend a lot on presents and we sponsor two World Vision children from Africa. This was also at the same time that my wife had decided to quit her job and come to work for YouthHOPE, which meant a reduction in income for our family. We let them know that we weren’t planning on spending that much on them anyway, so they would have to give up some other things during the year. They more than agreed to it. There are few moments when I have been more proud of our daughters that I can remember. They get it! Being a Christian means that we practice generosity (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

So Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, I think your Beats look cool, but I don’t think hearing the bass is worth what I can invest in helping Betty from Sierra Leone have access to food, education, health and a chance to hear the gospel.

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Youth Ministry Economics: Birthday S...

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