The definition of “youth”

Now, youth is a tricky word anywhere. In government documents it may denote people under 25, but in a church context in North America, it usually refers to grade 7-12 kids. In Cameroonian churches, it refers to anyone of child-bearing age. That’s a pretty broad spread but it really does reflect who may possibly go to “youth” at church in Cameroon!

My Lutheran friend regularly deals with 3 churches around Kumba and their youth groups. The diversity of these groups becomes an issue when they get together as a youth association. One group follows the North American model with kids ranging from 12 to 21. Another consists of a handful of early twenties youth. But the third group, when asked to define the parameters of “youth” said “under 43” because that’s the age of their oldest member.

43!!!! Good gracious! I knew in the village one may be part of the “youth” until one’s own children are old enough to be included. That just blows my mind. The definition “within the childbearing years” makes sense on paper as a designation and explains why 45-year-olds go to youth group, but I daresay it’s pretty tough to have any kind of program tailored to “youth” that will be helpful for all (or any) of them if you’ve got anything from a 12 to 43 year old.


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