Over the last eight years of my life, a majority of my time has been spent ministering to teenagers and young people both here in my church in Denver, as well as in a variety of other fundamental churches. Much of that time has been spent in teaching private music lessons, counseling at camp, interacting through competitive sports, and preaching and teaching the word of God. A variety of camping/missions trips, as well as just hanging out at our house, provided further opportunity to minister to teens. I have learned a number of valuable lessons along the way.
- Teenagers like to have fun. This might be their number one rule of life! No teenager would naturally rather work than play.
- Teenagers are basically big kids. As young people reach adolescence, they begin to see the world through their own eyes, and they love to explore and discover like children. However, since teens are much more proactive in the discovery process, it is much easier for them to get into trouble than it is for children. Many teens have found that their new liberty and license leads to devastation or heartbreak. Some get drunk and get into car accidents. Others dabble with drugs, pornography, and sex.
- Teens love mentorship, not authority. Teenagers love the liberty to make their own decisions, and seek affirmation to make the right decision. Much of the decision making process for teens takes into account the counsel of friends, while neglecting the counsel of parents, pastors, or teachers. Even though teenagers desire affirmation from older, more mature sources, they may easily become resentful of that source if it disagrees with them. Teens like to hear that they are right, not wrong.
- Teen rebellion is very real, and there are a number of forms which rebellion can take. When teens feel that they are personally disrespected or disregarded, they may take a number of approaches to both voice their feelings and make sure that those feelings are considered. Rebellious teens may use the silent treatment, they may shout, or they may play objectionable music loudly. Sometimes they even become violent to ensure that their voice is ultimately heard.
- Teen godliness is also very real. Throughout my years in teen ministry, I have had the wonderful opportunity of observing numerous teenagers whose lives were clearly submitted to Christ. They had grown well beyond external ideas concerning “how to be spiritual,” instead manifesting every positive trait of godly adults, such as humility, submission, thoughtfulness, devotion, caring, and concern. Many godly teens are very concerned with their spiritual growth. They care deeply about their walk with the Lord, their consistency in devotion, their confession of sin, and their testimony before unbelieving neighbors. They resist the temptation to laziness and seek to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.
A blueprint for teen godliness will be outlined next week in part 2: Developing Godly Character in your 21st Century Teen.