Thought Factory Podcast #206 || Verbally Solving America’s Greatest Issues

Are we going in the right direction as a country? What do students think? Today we’re talking about what students say are the most important issues facing America.  Issues that include terrorism, race relations, sexual identity, and abortion.  Are students better off spiritually today than 20 years ago? In today’s episode, we discuss these issues and our perspective on the direction of this country.

What is the most important problem facing America?

Wealth Inequality // 11%*
Race Relations // 23%
Abortion // 10%
Sexual Identity/Orientation // 20%
Terrorism // 36%

Adults’ response to the same question:

Wealth Inequality // 9%**
Race Relations // 29%
Abortion // 3%
Sexual Identity/Orientation // 36%
Terrorism // 23%

#1 problem facing America for students is Terrorism at 36%.

*In our podcast, we stated that wealth inequality and abortion were equal in percentage for students, but looking closer, wealth inequality was .34% lower than 11% (so it was rounded up) and abortion was .06% below 10% (so it was rounded up).  So wealth inequality had a slight edge over abortion.  

**We also found that the percentage of adults in regards to wealth inequality came in at 9.48% so we rounded down to 9%, but stated it was rounded up to 10% in the podcast.  We wanted to make sure our percentages are 100% and we miscalculated the results by 1%.

The top 3 concerns for students were:

Race Relations
Sexual Identity/Orientation

To dig into these terms:
Terrorism is really about safety.  Students want to feel safe and they are concerned that safety will be removed from their lives.  Terrorism is much more of a factor for students than what adults think.

Race Relations is about harmony and reconciliation.  Students recognize there is a lack of harmony between humans.  Students don’t see race relations as much of an issue as adults would thnk they would.  When students are younger, maybe they have not experienced the pain or the realities of the brokenness with race relationships.

Sexual Identity/Orientation is about seeking an understanding.  No matter what students are going through they desire to be understood.

Students are more pro-life than what adults think they are. The millennial generation is more pro-life.  The tide is turning on this issue, more pro-life in their general stance, than their parent counterparts.


Where do you believe the direction of the country appears to be going?

In a Positive Direction // 4%
In a Negative Direction // 77%
About the Same // 19%

Adults’ response to the same question:

In a Positive Direction // 2%
In a Negative Direction // 85%
About the Same // 13%

Two episodes ago we mentioned that 93% of students had somewhat or mostly positive outlook on the future, which was more of a personal belief for their own future.

In seminary, Jeff had a professor who asked the class, “Are students better off spiritually than they were 20 years ago?”  The class had to choose one way or the other and could not stand in the middle.  

On the one side, the pessimistic view, the argument is that the issues that students are faced with are more complex and more intense.  They are further away from God than before.

On the other side, the optimistic view, the argument is that the issues are the same, but they appear to be coming in a different form today than before.

Jeff realized then that he had a pessimistic outlook on the future.  So he asked himself, “Where did this come from?”   Media, God?  Did that view come from internally from God or externally from the world, from media or other people’s opinions?  God began to change Jeff’s outlook toward an optimistic view.

Ask yourself, is my outlook optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Why?
How wold you answer that question?
What is your perspective and why do you hold that perspective?

The perspective we hold on to as an adult/youth worker affects how we approach ministry.  If we have more of a pessimistic outlook, we tend to approach students with negativity and low expectations.  If we have an optimistic outlook, we approach students with hope, high expectations, and a greater belief in what students are capable of.  We see a primary pessimistic approach from adults in our research.  Most adults believe students are worse off than 20 years.

Students seem to be more optimistic.  Do we see the good in students?

What is key as a youth worker is to bring an optimistic view and share that view with other adults, so we can change the future of the outlook on the upcoming generations.  We are called to a position to cast vision to the other adults about the students.  Cast a greater vision for this generation.


What do you believe is the best solution for our country’s challenges?

The Right President // 38%
More Government Involvement // 8%
Less Government Involvement // 11%
The Church // 39%*
A Total Crash in the System // 5%

Adults’ response to the same question:

The Right President // 32%
More Government Involvement // 5%
Less Government Involvement // 16%
The Church // 41%
A Total Crash in the System // 6%

*The right President and the Church tied for first at 38% with students, with only .21% of a difference, giving the Church the edge, so we rounded it up to 39% to equal 100%.

We dove deeper into these numbers and this specific question in our politics podcast.

As we discussed issues in America and what may be the best solution for those issues, we discussed the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about was about an internal change, stated in Luke 17:21, the Kingdom of God is within you, a transformed heart.  But the disciples were looking for an external change, a messiah to arrive on the scene, to take up arms, and to dethrone the Roman empire.  When is the nation of Israel going to be restored, the kingdom of God to take over?  In context, the nation of Israel was under the rule of the Roman empire and they were ruthless.  They were crying out for freedom.  What they expected the messiah to do was to restore the government, the physical nation back to prominence and to take over the Roman government.  But when Jesus said the Kingdom of God, and when people heard it, they thought he meant that the glory of Isreal would be restored, but Jesus was talking about a change of heart.

Will change come from people or from institutions?  Will it come from people’s hearts being changed and transformed by the gospel or from external sources like government or the right people in office?

When we talk about solutions and talk to students, many of them are looking for external sources to change society, when Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, but it’s not an external thing where we will see it reflected in office or on TV, but instead of an internal transformation.  It starts internally in people’s hearts and then it begins to have an external visibility to it.

Are we pointing students to understand that the internal transformation of God within someone’s heart is what will change the world?

We can experience the Kingdom of God when we place our trust in Him and obey His commands. When we allow Him to transform out hearts, the Kingdom is evident externally in forgiveness, or loving our neighbors, or bringing justice into this world that is filled with evil and sin.  These are evident because we have a heart change.

Students may be looking to external sources if their heart is not transformed.

We live in a culture of blame and division where we point to someone else and claim it is their responsibility for something that didn’t happen or did happen.  These things are important, but not the most important.  The shift goes from looking for someone else to looking inward and wanting to see a change in us.

The most important thing is the lives and hearts of people.  Their lives can be changed and we need to point them to the internal process to see a transformation to occur.

We can even blame the church, but is God changing you internally?

If we are changed internally, is it affecting others externally?

Let’s help students see that the Kingdom of God is an unstoppable force when we allow our hearts be transformed.

© 2017, Never The Same