Every weekend, somewhere in America, you can attend a conference on ministry to "new generations"—or so it seems, judging from the announcements that arrive in my mail. Energetic young people and earnest not-so-young people pack into meeting rooms; PowerPoint slides confidently promise the end of ministry as we've known it.

But don't believe everything you hear. At least three myths are alive and well in our conferences and popular books. Probing these myths—and why they are popular—can give us clues to truly effective countercultural ministry.

Young people are a generation. If you define a "generation" as a cohesive group sharing a common set of birthdates and experiences, with their own personality and felt needs, there has been only one "generation" in American history: baby boomers. No one can miss the spike in the birth charts after World War II. Those babies arrived at a uniquely cohesive moment, when there were just three major television networks, magazines with names like Time and Life, and a series of culture-wide defining historical events, culminating in the Vietnam War.

But there's no similar spike on the charts after 1960, just the normal ebb and flow of fertility that one sees throughout history. What little common ground "Generation X" and its successors share has been created by slightly desperate marketers of consumer products, who made a mint off the baby boomers and aren't about to let generational consciousness grow old along with them. But they are fighting an uphill battle. The two hottest young artists at this year's Grammy Awards, 28-year-old Eminem and 32-year-old Faith Hill, have respectively sold 8 and 6 million copies of their most recent albums. Eminem sings about raping and killing his own mother; ...

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Always in Parables
Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is an editor at large for Christianity Today. Before working for CT, Crouch was chief of re:generation quarterly, a magazine which won the Utne Reader's Alternative Press Award for spiritual coverage in 1999. He was formerly a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. Crouch and his wife, Catherine, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, have two children. His column, "Always in Parables," ran from 2001 to 2006.
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