It may be premature to form a solid opinion on my ideas of Indian youth; my Cultivate internship team has only been in the county for 6 days! However, we’ve been meeting with the leadership of Life Fellowship Church and have been asking lots of questions.
From listening to the heart of the leaders, I’ve come to the conclusion that the teens here in India are faced with many of the same things that teens are facing in America, but of course, with an Indian culture twist to it.
A key difference here is that India is a shame-based culture. The American worldview is centered more around right vs. wrong, whereas the Indian culture is focused more on honor vs. shame — Everything here revolves around success and what will bring someone’s self/family honor. Therefore, the typical Indian family’s life revolves around their children and their accomplishments. This also means that because parents immensely invest in their children, they expect a future return from them. This worldview creates an immense pressure to succeed. (There’s only two esteemed career paths to choose– either become a doctor or an engineer). This academic pressure has led many teens to feel indifferent towards the church due to perceived lack of real life applicability — How can teens have time to think about other things when their biggest concern in life is to not be a failure in this world?
Another major issue here, just like in the U.S., is that teens are constantly being bombarded with an overload of information — We can thank the internet and social media for this generational problem. So on top of all the information they learn in school every day, they are constantly being exposed to knew ideas on the internet, especially regarding western culture. The last thing that teens want to do is spend their free time learning more at church.
So just like in America, the temptation for parents is to figure out a “quick fix” — What will be the quickest cure for teen indifference towards faith? Often the answer given is “more preaching.” But, in my opinion, teens aren’t in need of more preaching. No, their problems aren’t stemming from a lack of instruction –They’re being preached at constantly in all areas of their lives. What they desperately need though is to be actively listened to. They are crying out to be heard and to be able to share their struggles without feeling the shame that comes with exposing their baggage. This trip has shown me that this is not just a cultural challenge, but a global challenge– One that the older generation, wherever they are in the world, is going to have to come to terms with. Teens want to be heard and listened to, whether they are an American or an Indian.