I like Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream

Currently, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is top 10 on iTunes. It’s huge. And I am not ashamed to admit that when it pops up on my iTunes I listen to it 3-4 times in a row.

While I’m sure most youth workers groan when they hear this song… I take a totally different perspective.

I want this to be my students dream, too.

Well, not exactly— since the video leaves a lot to the imagination. Here’s what I mean by “I want this to be my students dream, too.

  • I want my students to have a fun, audacious, spontaneous, and exciting sex life. (Until they get married- “Pre-sex lives.”)
  • I want them to fall in love and be happy with that person for a long time. I want their love life to be fun, like a teenage dream.
  • I want them to fall in love early in life. I want them to grow up (meaning, take full responsibility for themselves) and get married ASAP. I believe we’re creating a self-fulfilling prophesy that they aren’t ready when they are.

Perhaps the reason this song speaks to so many people is because we tell people to wait too long for this type of relationship? Perhaps there was no room in our lives at 18 or 19 years old for a no-regrets love affair? Perhaps our parents scared us out of teenage dreams with statistics about divorce and telling us we needed to go to college first?

But this dream, I believe, is quite similar to God’s desire for us. The Bible is clear about sex before marriage. But it is equally clear about early marriage.

I just know when I watch this video I think about my relationship with Kristen. We were almost 19 when we met. We took lots of walks on the beach. (aka- free dates) Outside of the motel line– that video was us! Our parents both told us we were too young and we ignored them. (Just like they ignored their parents warnings!)

When we got married at 21 we fulfilled the dreams of this video and it was great. (Though, Kristen grew up baptist so skin tight jeans were out of the question.)

My prayer for youth ministry is that we are crazy enough to tell our students and their helicopter parents that they need to have teenage dreams for themselves. I pray that we become culture creators and truth tellers in such a way that gives our society a wake-up call. Teenage Dreams isn’t shameful. We would not exist as a people if it weren’t for generations of teenage dreamers. We don’t need to shame teenagers from their sexuality, we need to teach them appropriate ways to embrace it.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

30 comments

  1. Good blog post Adam. We married when I was 20 and Kansas was 18 and just graduated high school. Now it’s 13.5 years and 4 kids later and I’d do it all again. I do struggle with the message that society and most parents put out that you need to be 25-26 to get married. That almost insures sex before marriage. I believe it was Paul who said it’s better to marry than to burn.

  2. I have to agree with Ashley. Thanks for writing this, and getting me thinking this morning. I have to admit I was skeptical through the article, but I “got” it. I was married at 22, 2 weeks after finishing college. My wife and I got engaged when I had no promise of a job. We went completely on God’s plan, it was totally a teenage dream, and I wish I could figure out how to do it again.

  3. @Marty- that’s so funny, my husband @Ryan_Smith did not have a “real job” when got married, too. I was the one with the “real job,” but 9 years later we have been through so much together and still are madly in love. It’s a fun adventure, so glad I get have my dream & BFF alongside me.

  4. Adam.

    I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. So, no doubt you’ll take this with the same grain of salt that I’ll take any response from you.

    Maybe I’m a bit dense, but I’m not sure what exactly you are getting at here. To me, neither the video nor the song is promoting what your blog post is communicating. Is this video the image that we really want our students to have in their lives? Getting drunk? Turning one another on?

    I’m trying to connect the dots and coming up empty.

    1. First and foremost- welcome to my blog. I’m 100% fine if you don’t agree with me.

      What I’m getting at is that we, as youth workers, rarely paint a picture for young love. Our message tends to paint the picture that “you have to be older, more mature” to fall in love, get married, etc. In short, we are contributing to the elongation of adolescence into the mid-20s and creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.

      if you watch the video and read the lyrics and then add into it “this is a married couple” it pretty much depicts a very romantic dream. There’s nothing there I didn’t want to experience nor anything there I wouldn’t want my students to experience.

      The thing I tried to point out in my post was simply… I wish the couple was married.

      Katy Perry is extremely popular. In some ways she is a prophet to her generation. Instead of fleeing her messaging we need to figure out ways to show redemptive analogy.

      Anyway, you’re free to disagree!

      1. @John: I understand your concern. We don’t want to encourage our students to get drunk and turn each other on. We’d probably all end up unemployed with that mantra. I like what Adam’s saying though about not lying to students by telling them that what they experience in ways of love is not real and can’t be grasped until they’re mid twenties. My wife and I started dating at 14 and 16. We had no idea what the future would hold but waiting 10 years to start our lives together wasn’t an option. I don’t believe he’s encouraging them to go after their desires. #findmeattheberryfarmbaby

      2. Adam,

        Thanks for the response.

        One of my biggest struggles in ministry is dealing with kids who are completely spiritually un-discerned about the media that they participate in. Please understand, I’m not advocating the 80’s response…”go home and burn your records, oops…iPods”. What I am in favor of is using media like this and comparing it to God’s plan for us. When I see this video, I see not an advocacy for marrying young, but a promotion of a lifestyle clearly out of God’s plan. Now, had the guy in the video been the guy she married, or had they been wearing rings, that would be one thing. But, I’m starting to sound like some of my Bible college peers.

        BTW…I got married at 20, and am glad I did.

      3. So maybe I’m reading too much into this comment, but here is what I got from it:
        I’m 21, and I have no potential for a boyfriend, so a husband is even further off. Plus, I still live at home with my parents. So I’m a failure?

          1. “In short, we are contributing to the elongation of adolescence into the mid-20s and creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.”

          2. If you were trying to cross off a list of things you had to do before considering a relationship, that would be a failure. (Just like having a “list” of qualities you’d consider in dating someone is a failure.

            Marriage is a two-fold construction. There are standards which the Bible outlines and their are standards which culture dictates.

            Bible: New Testament believers are given much freedom. Basically, you should marry someone on a similar spiritual plain but the minimum requirement is that believers marry believers. In fact, personal choice wasn’t really much of a factor when the NT was written. You married who your family chose for you.

            Culture: Sociology teaches us that nearly every culture in the world has a form of marriage. In the U.S. the last 120-150 years has constructed a system of ideals which doesn’t resemble anything depicted in the Bible. It goes much further than just physical/class attributes. We’ve also put in place a number of hurdles to cross before we’re considered “mature enough” to move towards marriage. In Michigan, culture dictated something that looked like this: Just play around in high school. (Dating was fine as long as it wasn’t serious.) College, focus on your studies… there’s no need to be serious about a relationship. Focus on friendships with the same sex. Just out of college- pay off bills and live with your parents. (Can’t afford a relationship) Mid-20s- a period of crisis as people work crappy jobs, feel stuck at home, and start to wonder if they’ll ever get married. (second-guessing the plan) Late 20s- idealism starts to go out the window and a “you’ll do” attitude slips in.

            This isn’t just a Michigan thing, it’s a cultural thing in our society. It’s why, on average, people marry 10 years later than they did just 60 years ago. And, like another commenter mentioned, research has shown there really is a correlation between waiting longer to get married and a higher rate of divorce. In other words- going the way culture says is right leads to waiting longer and divorce rates increasing. (Not to mention delaying the age of a first child and the effects that has on society. Girls start their periods YOUNGER than ever but they don’t reproduce until LATER than ever. That’s bad biological math!)

            What is this long comment pointing out? That you have to recognize there is a synthesis going on between what the Bible tells us to do and what our culture tells us to do. Delaying marriage for cultural reasons, you have freedom in Christ to do that. But that choice has serious ramifications. The biblical standard for who a believer marries is very, very different than the cultural one we’ve created.

  5. hi adam. found your blog.

    I appreciate what you are getting at here. I really do.

    But I am not sure that “relationships” are the ticket out of an elongated adolescence. If adolescence is indeed getting longer and longer in the America – is this the kind of the thing we want young immature adolescents getting themselves into? I am thinking in particular as well about the divorce rate even among Christians in the country. Waiting longer to be in serious committed relationships could be the wisest things our students do. Further, this song surely highlights certain aspects of a romantic relationship but fails miserably in describing anything close to love. If this is the “kind” of relationship train we are hoping for our students to board on their way out of adolescence I don’t want to be the dude selling tickets.

    I mean, I am all for tight skinny jeans. But I doubt I am on board here. Thoughts? Did I miss something?

    1. In old school Christian terms we talk about “leaving and cleaving.” But in most church circles today that concept scares the crap out of parents. Their actions tend to teach “we cleave to you so you’ll never leave.” In Genesis the bible says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…”

      Marriage (and falling in love) are a big part of the growing up equation. It’s not “it” but it is certainly part of it.

      I’m no sociologist. And I’m definitely no research analyst.

      But it seems to me that the divorce rate has increased with people delaying marriage until their mid to late 20s. Delaying marriage more and more doesn’t lead to more maturity. I think that’d kind of counter-productive thinking.

      1. I see what you’re saying. Your post more centers around parents letting their children become adults rather than keeping them in the nest forever.

        “delaying marriage more and more doesn’t lead to more maturity”

        I can see how this might be true in some cases. But, I am whole lot more mature now at 26 than I was at 22 (and in a serious relationship about to get married – thankfully I didn’t). Perhaps this conversation is really based on so much of what our experiences are. Which really makes it difficult in trying to teach students who are writing their own stories.

        1. Jon, a committed marriage relationship means more responsibility for the couple which leads to maturity. (that is, if parents and in-laws will actually allow the couple to be an independent entity) People really don’t mature until they have to. Plus, Dr. Epstein in his book Teen 2.0 showed the research that teen grooms have a lower divorce rate than their 20-something counterpart.

          If we are talking about the message we send to teens I’m not sure the analytical type of pro-con list, having very deliberate relationships, having your life “together” before you settle down, etc… is not a very effective message either. Or, maybe very few people are capable of doing it.

          I am with you on people needing to be in a marriage context and I’m not a huge fan of drunk on the beach…

  6. Dear Adam,

    You are right, this song has been on the itunes top ten chart for a few weeks now. I think Katy Perry is onto something here.

    Yes she is advocating for premarital sex and hook ups with her hot muscular boyfriend, but at the same time she is describing a true reality that all teenagers need to dream about what they want for the future.

    Yes her priorities are off and “of the world”, but can you imagine if our teenagers starting dreaming and fully living wide awake for the Kingdom of God. When teenagers dream the passion is there but not necessary the right priorities, wants, or needs. That is why youth ministries need to exist. Youth workers help channel their passion and desires.

    Just think about the amazing potential if youth workers ask teenagers to dream about being apart of something so much bigger than putting make up on. Can we blame Katy for singing about how she feels when her hot boyfriend looks at her? She doesn’t know anything else and honestly 90% of American teenage girls don’t know any better too.

    Thankfully the Kingdom of God offers so much more that makes teenagers feel like they are significant and are really trying changing the world for Jesus. Now that is my teenage dream and dream for teenagers!!!

  7. I waited until I was 26 and PRAISE GOD I DID! I was immature until, I dunno… last week! But after being married for just a short 7 years I’m realizing more and more that what makes marriage work is intimacy in relation, not merely the bed! And, the light fluffy feeling of butterflies when you’re lover looks at you is fleeting and SHOULD mature and grow into something deeper and immaterial — that’s adult, Christian romance, something I didn’t see in this video AT ALL.

    In the end, I see your point, but it’s lost in a ton of other distractions that this video brings up.

    1. We are all too immature for marriage. It’s an institution/cultural construction that requires the Gospel to come alive every day as we walk together as sinners.

      Just be glad I didn’t show you the music video version. You’d have gotten more distracted by the ripping off of clothes. Ha!

      I think all lovers experience that phase of their relationship where they are just silly in love. Hopefully, they make it until the wedding (Most don’t, Jesus forgives) for the ripping off of clothes, spontaneous road trips to the beach, creative/romantic motels.

      Anyway– just because I married young doesn’t make that the way. Nor does waiting until 26. But I do think its silly that we tell people “they have to wait until they are mature.” If that was the case, we’d die off as a species.

  8. To some extent I agree. Although I am 21 and have never had a real relationship.

    I also attended a Christian college where the joke was “Ring by Spring”. It seemed like everyone was dating/hooking up/getting engaged/getting married. It is also a well known fact that this school’s graduates hae a 50% divorce rate. Our helicopter parents and teachers ingrained the naughtiness of sex all our lives that everyone was jumping outta their clothes to get into a relationship on the fast track towards marriage so they could get into bed with others in a way that was biblically acceptable. Now of course I know plenty of students who couldn’t wait.
    I kind of lean towards Jon Wasson’s sentiments of maybe this all depends on each students individual story. I can’t imagine being married right now. And maybe that’s because God hasn’t called me to marriage. He never promised us that we’d all get married! That is a tough lesson to learn too!! I think ideally it would be great to watch students to feel a love like Katy Perry has for Russell Brand. (That’s who she wrote the song for/about) But I think we also need to keep in mind that fact too. Think about all the great single people out there!! I’ve met so many godly people who have struggled through their being single and have done phenomenal things for the kingdom. I don’t think we need to push students into marriage/long term relationships especially if they’re doing it for the “wrong” reasons. (i.e. security, sex, because it’s what’s expected of us, etc)

    1. “It is also a well known fact that this school’s graduates hae a 50% divorce rate”

      Lots of colleges say that and foster that rumor.

      I think that’s folklore. I find it highly unlikely that any college tracks relationship status enough to know/care or have anything be a fact. (Why in the world would you spend money to track that???)

      I think this goes back to the false notion of maturity. Being mature doesn’t lead to a good marriage any more than being tall makes you good at basketball.

      are some called to singleness? Paul says so. But it’s tough to know!

      1. Oh they don’t technically track it. But let me tell you I knew people to get married AND divorced within 4 years of school. Professors even know what’s going on. And maybe colleges say those kinds of things, but I don’t think it helps any that we have this false concept of what a relationship looks like. Maturity does have a lot to do with it, I agree.

        It is tough to know if you are called to singleness. Just like it’s tough to know a lot of things God has possibly called us to. Should we rule it out?? I think not.

  9. Funny that you would post this after I’ve gotten into a debate on this very topic. The view of the OTHER person was that people shouldn’t marry until they have finished college, gotten a stable job (whatever that is), and passed the age of 30. Seems to me that’s what people are doing now and it has only succeeded in creating selfish jerks who are used to living only for themselves.

    I applaud your counter cultural stand. And I fully agree.

    As parents we absolutely hate to see our kids get hurt so sometimes we try to stop that by putting a damper on things…like a younger age at marrying. Perhaps we need to butt out and let them experience life and go after the dream. At worst they’ll get a valuable learning experience. At best, they’ll find the loves of their lives (like you and Kristen did) and have their happily ever after!

    So I love it all. And if this song had been talking about a married couple and the video had them more fully dressed I’d be saying “EXACTLY”. But I’m partly Baptist and I need to find some of the negative. LOL

    1. This comment gets like 9 amens and a high five.

      Waiting until 30+ to get married, intentionally, yeah our culture is jacked up.

      We need more people telling the truth. Marriage isn’t about being perfect going into it, having lots of resources and potential, etc. It’s not a business proposal. It’s a covenant between a man/woman and God.

  10. Adam,

    Off topic, I know, but I just had this thought and I wanted to pass it on to you: you should write a book of essays directed at “helicopter parents”. I’d buy a case and give them out for Christmas!

  11. Hey Adam –

    I’m glad God didn’t wait until Mary was mature and had more life experience. She probably would have been less obedient at that time in her life and her passion would have been snuffed out by the daily bump-and-grind. God knew what He was doing though, huh?

  12. Hi Adam!

    I once heard someone say that you shouldn’t get married unless you can see that you’d serve God better married than single. Ok, that might make you reply “how can you tell?” but at the end of the day it puts things in perspective and makes you realise it’s not about age, it’s about where your priorities lie (and where your potential partner’s priorties lie!).

    I left home at 18, and was mature for my age, but didn’t get married till I was 28 … mainly because I hadn’t yet met the right person! All my infatuations were unrealistic and I am now thankful God kept me from getting into anything that would have been unhealthy!

    I’m liking your blog!

    Hilary

    1. Yes, yes, and yes! This gets at what I was getting at as well! Big difference between infatuation and love… hard to know that difference when you’re young — but obviously people do!

      You’re point about serving God better married versus single is spot on as well!

  13. Great post Adam. I have no idea why I forgot to be reading your blog on a regular basis. I spent tonight catching up. Your voice is a breath of fresh air to the youth ministry community. Thanks for all you do.

    If you like this song – check out Mike Tompkins (crazy skilled guy from my hometown) doing a sweet acapella cover:

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