Teen Mania is waging a modern day movement to counter popular culture.
According to Ron Luce, 46, founder of Teen Mania, “Teens today are bombarded with point and click pornography, MTV, magazines all types of media that is taking this generation by storm. Girls are becoming more and more insecure about the way they look, due to what the media portrays as beautiful, while guys are daily falling into the addictive habit of looking at pornography.”
He said this is the first generation to grow up with point and click pornography: “90% of youth have stumbled onto a porn site while trying to do homework. This industry is robbing our teens of their innocence The sexual influences on TV networks such as MTV and BET area causing our girls to be unsatisfied with who they are. The suicide rate for girls is the highest it has been in 15 years.”
Teen Mania’s goal is to introduce teens to what living as a follower of Christ looks like and disciple them as they grow in their relationship with Christ. “Our goal is to create a new cultural norm where Christian values are the focus,” Luce said.
When it comes to the number one message for teens, “Our heartbeat is to provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth. God loves you and He wants to do amazing things through you. Don’t let your self be swept away with the sexualization and commercialization of today’s pop culture. Follow Christ for the greatest adventure you could ever imagine. The choices you make today will be with you for the rest of your life,” Luce said.
Shani Daniels, 18 of Houston, Texas, who has an internship with Teen Mania, is one teen who is joining forces to take an active stand against popular culture.
“We are teenagers and we are reaching out to teenagers,” she said. “We are trying to save our own generation, and that makes our ministry unique, because we are helping our own. I think as teenagers, we need to take it into our own hands,” Daniels said.
There are several ways teens can get involved. One is by attending one of Teen Mania’s events, such as Acquire the Fire or BattleCry.
This years Acquire the Fire’s tour theme is “Let Your Voice be Heard.” “We want Christian teens to know that they have a voice and they have the power to shape their generation. It is said that 98% of the population follow the culture and only 2% shape it, Luce said. “They can write letters and songs, dance, or create art that sends a positive message to their peers and adults. They can let advertisers know that the ideas that are destroying their generation are offensive to them and ask them to stop creating advertising that has such a negative impact on their generation.”
Another initiative is the BattleCry events. Last year alone, 199,244 teenagers attended these youth events. “BattleCry events are designed to transform teenagers to become passionate followers of Christ, equipping them to radically influence their community and the world. “These events are designed to network not just teens, but entire churches. It teaches churches that they are the answer. Strategies are clearly laid out on how they can double their youth group. There are thousands of churches already that are doubling and discipling their own youth ministry through the curriculum and tools we have available,” Luce said. “When we come into town with a BattleCry event, its not just about the event its about preparing the youth groups and the churches to be aggressive in going after young people in their own cities.”
Conyers, GA based Minister of Youth and Worship and singer/songwriter Matthew Eldridge has personally experienced what this movement is about. He has been attending Teen Mania’s Acquire the Events with his youth since 1994.
Prior to taking on his current role in January 2007, Eldridge served two years as the Minister of Youth and Worship at the First United Methodist Church of Dunnellon, FL, and he took his youth from that church to Acquire the Fire two years in a row.
This year, he also plans to take about thirty teens to the event. “This particular youth group has not gone to Acquire the Fire, so I am excited to take them for the first time,” Eldridge said.
“I have seen God do amazing things in my youth every year at the Acquire the Fire events. A few of my youth even attended the Honor Academy, and have transformed from shy, timid individuals into bold activists for God's kingdom.”
He reflected on a several of his own past experiences. “One particular year, Ron Luce invited all the teens who had been struggling with tempts of suicide to come forward for prayer. I was amazed as I watched thousands of teens go forward. I was also dumbfounded that the most popular girl in our youth group went to the front for prayer. I followed her down the aisle and laid my hand on her back as Ron prayed. She began trembling and sobbing. I couldn't help but to cry, too. My heart was breaking for these youth,” Eldridge said.
“Another time God actually hit me without me expecting it. Ron Luce gave an altar call for those who had been rejected by their parents, and especially those who didn't have a parent or were adopted and were angry with their parents. I followed a few of my youth down the aisle to the front, and while I was trying to focus on them, I realized my own anger towards my birthparents and the things my family went through. (and I was a 32-year-old man.) It was like God ripped my heart open to get all the junk out. I was set free that weekend from pain that suffocated me for more than twenty years.”
As a result of this counter-culture, modern-day movement, teens are doing a number of different things to take a stand for Christ. For example, “My BattlePlan” is an online journaling location where teens can connect with others and talk about how they are shaping the culture. You Tube is a another place teens are posting videos they create. Some are taking a stand in other ways, such as writing letters or protesting the sale of products like the pornaments, which are pornographic tree ornaments that were sold in stores last Christmas.
“We are standing up and taking a hold of our culture,” Daniels said. “We are refusing to live like the rest of the world, by watching movies, or listening to certain types of music, or just by not being a part of what is going on, which is killing our culture. We are standing up and we are saying, ‘no, we are not doing this anymore.’ We are not going to let our generation shrivel away in front of us.”
The biggest challenge is getting the information out. “Teens need to be taught how to follow Christ in the middle of a generation running the opposite direction,” Luce said.
Everyone can play an active part and help to make a difference. Many ministries have already joined in this fight including Chuck Colson, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer and others. Denominations such as Open Bible and Foursquare are also on board.
“It is up to us right now to do something and to take back this generation. Everyone who is a believer needs to find a way to get involved. Now is the time for all of us to get involved and win back the hearts and minds of our youth,” Luce said.
For more information, visit www.acquirethefire.com.