When dealing with the wider culture, Christians often absorb it unreflectively instead of engage it with biblical perspective. We tend be passive consumers of culture rather than active connoisseurs.
This process is even more complex after you have children. How do you teach your kids to engage culture well when you’re not even sure you’re doing it right?
In their new book, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle aim to help us with this dilemma.
Wisdom on Kids and Culture
This is a distillation of decades’ worth of observations and conversations with students, parents, and youth leaders from a pair of seasoned practitioners. Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the cohost of BreakPoint. Kunkle is student impact director at Stand to Reason with 25 years of experience working with youth. They’re also fathers who want to raise and disciple their own children well.
A Practical Guide to Culture is organized into four parts. Part one defines what culture is and why it matters. Part two offers a diagnosis of our cultural moment, focusing on the internet, devices, entertainment, the omnipresence of technology, and the changing nature of childhood itself. Children are developing physiologically (especially sexually) younger, yet maturing emotionally later.
Children are developing physiologically (especially sexually) younger, and yet maturing emotionally later.
Part three is the longest section of the book, devoted to identifying “Pounding Cultural Waves.” These include pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, gender, consumerism, addiction, entertainment, and racial tension. These chapters identify the lies we’ve been told about these topics, respond with what Scripture claims, and provide specific and practical “action steps” to live biblically.
Part four concludes the book with Christian worldview training, with an emphasis on how to think about the Bible and how to take the gospel to a pluralistic culture.
Speaking from my own experience, it’s easy to be ignorant of the ways our kids are affected by an anti-biblical worldview. Parents must work hard to know what their kids are exposed to. This book will be a wake-up call for parents who’ve failed to prepare their children for a hostile culture’s pressures. It’s scary out there, and our kids are in the thick of it.
Once parents have been awakened to the situation, Stonestreet and Kunkle also guide them. The authors give terrific practical ideas for leading kids through the challenges of our culture. They suggest the best way to meet ethical challenges is to cultivate virtue in our kids (141–45). They offer a series of questions to help lead your child to see the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christian virtue:
- What are your loves?
- What are your longings?
- What are your loyalties?
- What are your labors?
- What are your liturgies (habits and practices of worship)?
These aren’t easy questions, and I wouldn’t suggest asking them verbatim. We must translate them into the vernacular of our children in age-appropriate ways, which, of course, requires us to enter their world.
Culture Creators, Not Just Consumers
My only criticism is I would’ve liked a stronger call for parents to not just teach their children to navigate culture but also to be culture creators for the glory of God.
Nevertheless, the authors make clear that the Christian gospel is a vision for life that ultimately leads to human flourishing. When Christians take this vision seriously, they not only survive a hostile environment; they renew it and model a way of life that reflects heaven on earth.
John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2017. 368 pp. $22.99.