I think it would be a fitting follow up to yesterday’s post to address the 10/30 window. Many missionaries and missions agencies discuss the 10/40 window, the area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude that is home to the bulk of the world’s “unreached people groups,” those who have yet to hear the gospel. Wikipedia quotes the Lausanne Committee on Global Evangelization as defining an unreached people group as “an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement.” But Eric Larsen and Jonathan Taylor of Global Youth and Family Ministries have emphasized a different group, one they have named the 10/30 Window. This is the 2.5 billion people in the world between the ages of 10 and 30.
In a January 14, 2012 article in WORLD Magazine Mindy Belz quotes Taylor as saying that these people make up “the largest unreached people group in human history, larger than the 100 largest geographically defined unreached people groups combined.”
This is the same group that Ken Ham and Britt Beemer address in their book Already Gone. Though their study focused specifically on twenty-somethings in the United States who grew up attending church and have since left, they also look at the decline in church attendance in Great Britain and the points in their book would be applicable anywhere in the world. But the 10/30 Window does not include only those who grew up attending church and left; it also includes those who have never attended church and indeed some who have never even heard the message of the gospel.
While Larsen and Taylor look at the increasing connectedness of the younger generation thanks to “media, technology, and by the predominance of English as the language of the internet,” they are also specifically concerned about what Larsen has called the “systematic adult abandonment of the young.” Belz expanded on this abandonment in her article, writing, “The very things that unite young people divide them from adults. They learn the day’s conversation topics from a social media website, not the dinner table. They go to YouTube for direction on how to change the oil in the car, not Dad. If they have a question about who took the first walk on the moon or what is an HPV vaccine, they’re more likely to google it than to ask in the car on the way home from school.”
Larsen and Belz make valid points–the technology available today does marginalize many of the things that may have created default connections between adults and children in the past. When I would ask my mother a question growing up she would always say, “look it up.” Such an instruction now–if I even asked, as Belz suggested I wouldn’t–would likely send me to the internet, not the encyclopedias my mother had in mind when she gave that reply. (Most of today’s youth wouldn’t have a clue what an encyclopedia even is!). But technology is not the exclusive domain of youth; my grandfather was texting long before I was! Nor should the fondness that the younger generation often has for technology become an easy excuse for adults to allow the separation between generations to expand.
For example, if a child does ask who took the first step on the moon, an adult could answer the question and then go with the child to look up more information about the event, or could just go right to the computer with the child to look it up together. A child and an adult could watch a how-to video on YouTube together and then practice what they had learned. In other words, technology is a tool that can actually be used to draw generations together just as easily as drive them apart.
Larsen made this plea to Belz: “We are calling on an entire adult population to turn its hearts to the young.” The world does need an adult population willing to do that. And technology can help, but many of the very same things that have worked well throughout history are just as effective today. Back in 2003 Harvard professor of child psychology Dan Kindlon wrote Too Much of a Good Thing in which he examined what separates the successful young people from those who are not-so-successful; what makes the difference between those who are emotionally mature and responsible from those who are, well, we’ll just go with “not.” The book description includes this introductory sentence: “While many adolescents today have all the useful accessories of a prosperous society–cell phones, credit cards, computers, cars–they have few of the responsibilities that build character.” Guess what one of the most significant differences discovered by Kindlon happened to be? Those young people who were successful, mature and responsible had dinner together with their family at least a few times a week. That is an easy thing to do, and it makes a significant difference. And I would encourage parents to make it clear that technology will not be used during dinner. No texting, to talking on the phone, not even watching TV. Interact with each other.
The 10/30 Window is specifically about reaching the younger generation with the gospel, and Kindlon certainly was not addressing that. But the fact is, relationships between adults and young people need to be developed before the gospel can be effectively shared. As important as missionary efforts are–within and without the 10/40 Window–perhaps even more important is the 10/30 window, and we do not need to go anywhere to start making a difference in that area. Every adult has children in their lives–or could, with very little effort–whether they be biological family members, neighbors, youth league sports participants or attendees at church. Start building bridges between the generations, investing a little time now that could make a difference for eternity.