Jay Kesler tells what today’s youth have and don’t have in common with previous generations.

Jay Kesler has ministered to youth for 30 years through extensive speaking, his Family Forum radio program, and his Person to Person column in CAMPUS LIFE magazine. Decades ago Kesler determined to read 400 pages every week, and has largely maintained that goal—despite traveling widely and combining his presidency of Youth for Christ with pastoring a Baptist church outside Chicago. A thoughtful observer of the subtleties of human relationships, he has written nine books.

Last July 31, Kesler left the presidency of YFC to become president of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.). CT chose this occasion to ask him about today’s youth and how parents and church leaders can minister to them.

How are today’s teenagers like those you have seen in the past?

Many observers of today’s youth culture want to equate today’s teenagers with those of the Eisenhower years. You see articles with black-and-white photos of ’55 Chevrolets at the local drive-in, girls standing around in bobby socks, and waitresses whizzing about on roller skates. And the author concludes that today’s kids are a lot like those in the picture—both groups are apathetic and self-centered.

There may be some truth to that comparison. It’s not inaccurate to describe most adolescents of the fifties and those of the eighties as self-consumed and apathetic about the world.

But I see a huge difference. Students in the fifties were apathetic about the world because they didn’t know much about it. That was pre-Sputnik and nearly pretelevision, pretransistor, and precomputer.

Missionaries came to churches with snake skins and pith helmets. And most Americans viewed the rest of the world as uncivilized. ...

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