September 2nd 2016 No comments yet
I think I will always have a soft spot in my heart for teenagers. Maybe it’s because I know what a formative time ages thirteen through nineteen were for me, and how clearly I remember the adults who guided me during that stage of life. And, oh, how I needed guidance in my insecure days of purple hair and metal music. As I get older, I am consistently amazed by how much adults can give and receive when we volunteer to mentor adolescents, whether at church or through community programs.
Adolescence is a season of pressure—pressure to succeed in school and extracurricular activities, pressure to experiment with drugs or sex or alcohol, pressure to grow up overnight, etc. Combine this with teens’ deep desires to form an identity, discover meaning in the world, and develop self-worth. Now add on the fact that their emotions and hormones are often running haywire. Poor things. These are high stakes that merit our attention. As teens experience certain struggles for the first time, they need the support of someone older who has been there—and survived. They need mature role models to understand and encourage them through their anxieties and frustrations. When we volunteer with teens, you and I can help be those people for them.
Not only can you help teens grow as you mentor them—you would be surprised by how much you can learn and receive when you spend time with teenagers. In the Insight for Living broadcast What’s Right About Adolescence? (May 19, 2016), Pastor Chuck Swindoll discussed four areas in which teens excel in their walks with Christ. He illustrated the areas through four young lives in Scripture—Isaac in Genesis, Samuel in 1 Samuel, Josiah in 2 Chronicles, and Daniel in, well, Daniel. These stories and other experiences with young believers show that teens possess “a willingness to risk, a sensitivity to God, a commitment to integrity, and a determination to stand.” I can attest to that myself.
In the time I have spent volunteering with teens at church, I have seen each of those qualities up close, and they humble me every time. Teens can be much more willing to try something new than adults, who are stuck in the ways we’ve established. Teens believe in change and endless possibilities, which can pair so well with our Scripture that tells us everything is possible with Him (Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 3:20). They are open to experiencing God in deep ways, laying their raw emotions and ideas before Him. The world hasn’t yet crushed their idealism and honesty.
I don’t know about you, but my convictions were strong as a teenager. I was an idealist (which I hope I never fully outgrow), and I believed that I would change the world as I joined with others and stood up for what I believed. I questioned my culture and the problems I saw in the world. I protested industries and ideas I found corrupt. I deepened in empathy and compassion as I looked at the world through my own eyes, instead of only through the eyes of my authorities. Not every teenager around me was like this, but plenty were, and if all our passion had been put into Christian walks, we could have put some adult Christians to shame. I would do well to remember those formative years and regain some lost zeal. I truly believe we can learn as much from teens as they learn from us.
Volunteering with teens is such a fulfilling exchange of encouragement and insight, and I hope you have the chance to experience it. Teenagers need our guidance, and I believe we as adults need their vitality. Even if you aren’t sure what you have to give, reach out anyway. An adult who sees and listens and attempts to understand—that alone can boost a teen’s comfort and confidence. You don’t need to be the wise grown-up who knows it all; in fact, if you can help them understand that nobody knows it all and that “having it all together” is an illusion, that can be just as helpful as a bit of good advice.
So give what you can, just as you do with any type of service. I doubt our Student Ministries (and Preteen and Children’s Ministries, too) would turn down anyone with a humble heart ready to serve. Opportunities to guide our young people are too important to ignore. As I write this, Stonebriar Student Ministries and Preteen Ministries are searching for more small group leaders, and our Children’s and Special Needs classes on Sunday mornings are hurting for volunteers. I hope you will take a moment to consider what you might have to give—and what you might unexpectedly receive if you signed up today.
Written by Patricia Krecklow, Staff Editor & Writer
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