GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

It was the last week of school and these five students had senioritis really bad! They wanted to be anywhere but school. Robby signaled toward the parking lot and his four friends followed. When the school security guard wasn’t looking, they sprinted for the car to cut class. As they loaded in the car, Chris asked where they were going. Robby replied, “I don’t care. Let’s just get out of here! YOLO!”

YOLO? What’s this YOLO?

YOLO is an acronym for “you only live once,” and it’s growlingly popular in teenage circles.

As a guy who habitually studies and writes about youth culture and even provides a slang dictionary on our webpage, I’ve learned not to overreact when I hear phrases like this emerge. I remember when parents first got a whiff of some of the text-slang and chat-slang that kids were using. Terms like “POS” (parent over shoulder). Panicky parents freaked when they thought that their kids had developed code to let their friends know “I can’t talk right now.” Sure, some kids used the term like this… but really? When you were a teenager would you have talked the exact same when your parents came into the room?

Are all these slang terms a secret code used by teenagers who covertly want to send naked pictures to each other while driving drunk… without a seatbelt!!!

Not quite. Yes, come kids are engaging in some pretty risky behaviors . But terms like YOLO don’t always mean that kids are up to no good.

Nicole is an amazing teenager, a student leader at our church, and probably the kid that most would vote as “most likely to become a missionary someday.” During freshman orientation at our youth group she was encouraging freshman to make the most of their high school years, meet other students and get involved in serving the community. “After all,” she said, “YOLO.”

Nicole is the perfect example of a kid who innocently used a popular term for good.

Can the term YOLO have a pretty “temporary-thrill-seeking” outlook on life? Sure. Should we panic if we hear our kid saying it? Probably not. Point of fact, rather than teaching something like, “YOLO is contrary to biblical thinking” and ranting about frivolous living, I might actually teach something like “The theology of YOLO,” starting with Jesus’ words in John 10:10 about living life to the full and then paralleling that to his teaching about kingdom living, which is experiencing God’s joy now as we look forward to the not yet.

Panicking is never the answer. As we encounter terms like this from pop culture, let’s use them to steer toward the truth of the Gospel. After all… YOLO.

Question: What about you? Have you heard kids using this term? Do you find the term representative of a cultural mindset?How can you dialogue with teenagers about this mindset… without scaring them away? Share your thoughts here.

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