Two things that every teenager can identify with are a lack of hope and a deep sense of loneliness. Joy is the remedy, but how do you find it?
LACK OF HOPE
When classes get hard, school seems totally pointless, friends betray you, you get cut from a team or fail a quiz… all of this can make a teenager feel hopeless. Hope is when a person has reason to believe something good is going to happen to them. Teenagers, because of the roller coaster of emotions and disloyalty among peer relationships, often do not feel like anything good is going to happen to them today, or tomorrow. Because emotions are heightened in adolescence, it is not uncommon for them to either hate or love school, depending on the day or month. This is a normal pattern, but it is not a helpful one. Those of us who really love teenagers can do something to help our teenage friends experience hope even if their circumstances stink.
Because everyone wants to feel included, teenagers tend to run in small packs. Unfortunately to preserve their sense of belonging they often cut down or make fun of other kids who are not in their group. The devastation of this pattern is insecurity for just about everyone. When a kid cuts someone down or does not show mercy toward someone who messed up, the result is deeper loneliness because everyone intrinsically knows that they are no better than anyone else. Eventually this “pack mentality” catches up with everyone. Each of us will mess up and get made fun of or ridiculed, its just a matter of time.
So how do you break out of this vicious cycle, and maybe help another teenager get free from this joyless trap of loneliness and fleeting hope?
Adolescents have to work really hard in their education to build a foundation of knowledge, character, and experience. Parents have the hindsight to understand just how important a Middle School and High School education is, so we can serve the pre-teens and teenagers in our lives with a compelling vision for the “why” behind all of the hard work.
The more I work with adolescents and raise a few of my own, I realize that adolescents and adults are not that different from one another. In particular, we both desperately need to be reminded of the “why” behind what we do. We can all get bored, distracted, or even depressed for lack of vision (Proverbs 29:18). But when we are inspired by vision, we tend to get back that enthusiasm God created us to have and we press forward with hope and purpose for our future. Here’s how…
Parents (and grandparents) are an absolutely vital part of your student ministry. This is true of middle school, high school, and in some ways even college ministry. Regardless of their faith, whether Believers or non-believers, parents of teenagers are still the primary gatekeepers for their kid’s involvement in your student ministry. And even parents of college students, who may not really be a “gatekeeper” any longer, can still be a catalytic advocate for your ministry.
In the grand scheme of things, your relationships with parents may be just as important as your relationship with students. Parents enhance your student ministry by giving you ideas, feedback, resources, and prayer. Your whole ministry will benefit from parents who are appropriately involved as advocates, especially among other parents.
Kathy Caprino’s recent article in Forbes highlighted 7 ways parents may be contributing to the stunted growth of their kids’ leadership potential. She interviewed a guy named Tim Elmore who has written some books on leadership. From the article, he seems to have a pretty good pulse on the current generation of youth and parents.
7 THINGS ABOUT YOUR PARENTING THAT MIGHT BE CRIPPLING YOUR KIDS’ LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL:
- We don’t let our children experience risk
- We rescue too quickly
- We rave too easily
- We let guilt get in the way of leading well
- We don’t share our past mistakes
- We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity
- We don’t practice what we preach
I love this list and it really challenges me in some of my common parenting mistakes (the article really fleshes this out, I recommend reading it).
3 MORE COMMON MISTAKES SOME PARENTS MAKE THAT STUNT LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL IN THEIR KIDS
As a parent and a youth worker I thought of three more things that I would probably add to this list. These are 3 common ways we stunt the leadership potential in our kids:
- We subtly communicate the false notion that we are more different from one another than we are alike.
- We fail to show respect to our kids in ways they need it.
- We unknowingly communicate that we are doubting they have what it takes.
If you’d like to delve further into ways you can avoid these pitfalls, please read my post: 3 Things Teenagers Need to Hear from Adults.
To read Caprino’s full article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders,” just follow the link below from my Twitter feed.
The best way to keep the communication lines wide open with teenagers is to consistently show them respect. Distance is what adolescents often feel from adults. They think adults don’t understand them, are vastly different from them, and don’t struggle with what they struggle with.
This could not be further from the truth. Here are three things that teenagers need to constantly hear from you through verbal and nonverbal vibes…
Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. – John C. Maxwell
Becky and I on a retreat in Northern California
Recently, my wife, Becky and I took a much needed retreat to Northern California with some friends to talk about life, marriage, leadership, and parenting. I talk alot about the need for retreat… and it was time to practice what I preach.
As a parent, and a leader in youth ministry development, I see a real need for encouragement from God’s Word on how to pursue God’s design for the parent-child relationship. The Apostle Paul offers some simple but life-changing instruction in Colossians that is probably drawn from his understanding of Exodus 20:12 which is the a commandment directed specifically toward the parent-child relationship: God instructs children:
“ ‘Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”(Exodus 20:12 )
This is the one commandment that is coupled with a direct blessing. All of the commandments are equally important, yet for some reason God adds a special blessing and motivation for following this commandment. Why? I think it is probably because FAMILY is the foundation of society. If we get this wrong, society will erode at break-neck speed. If we get the Parent-Child relationship wrong, patterns will get established that could govern the rest of our lives… and effect all of those other institutions God has ordained.
I recently had a day of parenting that I would call a failure. I really love my kids so when I feel like a failure as a parent that can be really discouraging. The next morning as I was spending time with the Lord trying to restart so that I would not let my sense of defeat cause me to lose heart, I was reminded of a metaphor that helped.
LIKE THAT FEELING OF FAILURE WHEN YOU HAVE LOST A GAME
I have coached for a long time and currently I’m coaching a 12 and under baseball team. It is inevitable in any sport that a player is going to have a bad day. I have walked my kids through many of these situations and one common thread stands out. As the parent standing with my kids as they feel a sense of failure or defeat, my hope is always that they can simply learn from it and then move on quickly to the next opportunity for growth. It is hard to watch one of my kids remain downcast over a bad day on the field. What I love is when one of my kids can deal with their emotion of disappointment in a reasonable amount of time, and then find something to learn from and lift their chin and move on.
It sounds cliche to say that what matters from failure is how you deal with it and move on. But it is true. And I see in the Scriptures that our heavenly Father has a similar perceptive. God expects us to fail, massively, and often. Yet similar to a parent who is pulling for their child to learn, grow, and move on… God has that kind of perspective.
CONTENTMENT COMES FROM HUMILITY
A passage that encourages me along these lines is Psalm 131. It is a psalm about contentment. And contentment comes from humility.
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)
LISTEN TO YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S VOICE WHEN YOU FACE DEFEAT
How are you handling small or massive failures or defeat? Are you like the child after a game who keeps his head down and can’t snap out of it.. making a big deal out of something that really in the grand scheme of things is not that big of a deal? I’m grateful that although I met discouragement recently by a bad day of parenting, that once again (as usual) God’s Word helped me snap out if it and just learn and move on in hope.
- Identify a recent time when you felt defeated. How did you handle it?
- Have you ever tried to cheer up or encourage another person after the lost a sports game? Can you remember a time when someone you know sat in disappointment for way too long? Was that hard for you to watch? Why?
- Consider this week how God the Father truly views failure and defeat. Like the Psalm above encourages us, try to “calm and quiet yourself like a weaned child” in the lap of your Father, and then chin up and move on. It’s probably not as big of a deal as you have made it out to be in God’s perspective.
- Remember what Job cried out in great hope: “I know that my redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25). God is actively at work redeeming you especially in the midst of your failures and defeat.