October 18, 2012

What I'm learning from teenagers

A few months ago I decided to get outside of my little comfortable box of ministry and do something new.  For quite a few years now I've basically stuck to one thing.  And because of closed doors and changes that are out of my control, it felt like it was time to expand my heart and broaden my horizons and consider the possibility that God could use me and the healing that I've known in other places.

Todd and I recently made friends with the youth pastor and his wife at our church and he was eager to have us join his team. Though his eagerness may have had something to do with the ribs we made the night we had them over for dinner and wanting to seal the deal of getting in on some more in the future. (Is it true Nate?)

But, we jumped right in to youth ministry.  Teenagers.

While I feel comfortable in this place of ministry too, as I seem to easily make friends with young women their age, it can still be a bit intimidating. I find myself wanting to seem "cool" and I wonder if they will just think that I'm old and irrelevant.  Seventeen feels ages ago yet I somehow remember it well too. 

The past few weeks, we've talked about sex and relationships and friendships and where they struggle or land in those places.  I've had the opportunity to share pieces of my story and hear some of their own.  As I've both shared and listened, and even just observed these young ladies and all the youth around me, I've wondered if I'm the one doing more of the learning.

A few things I've picked up from them in the short time I've been a student ministry leader:

Listen to them more - talk less.  Much less.

There is always time for silly.

Crossed arms and hard faces soften when they begin to believe you truly care about them.

They REALLY want to talk to their parents.  But most of them feel like they can't.

Don't talk to them like children because they believe they're already grown up.

Dodgeball should be taken very seriously.

They want to hear real stories from adults - the ones where we messed up and made mistakes - so they don't feel lonely or horrible for what they've done themselves.  When we open up, they open up.

They are watching and listening to absolutely everything that the adults in their lives say and do and also what they don't say and don't do.  Absolutely everything.  This is especially important to take note of!

Apparently teen girls don't like saggy pants OR skinny jeans on guys.

There is a deep desire to know, understand and hear from God - but it feels hard and gets discouraging.

More freedom should always come with more responsibility.

 They crave consistency, relationship and attention even if they pretend to not care.

We only have ten years before Tommy enters teenagerdom, and only a few more years after that until our next child is right there with him.  I've heard so many parents say that raising a teenager is incredibly hard and challenging.  From observance, it tends to be the years that a lot of parent-child relationships begin falling apart because of some great disconnect.  It's not true for everyone, but it is common from what I've seen.  I'm sure that Todd and I will have our own share of hard and challenging when we face those years too with our kids, but I really hope I can remember what I've learned from the teens who have been teaching me now.  That ministering to their young hearts will somehow prepare me for my journey with having teenage children of my own.

When we first started attending our church, some of the first friends we made there had three daughters - two of them teens.  The oldest and I have developed quite a sweet friendship - I was even invited to go with her to get her first tattoo on her eighteenth birthday.  (For the record, her mom went too and the tattoo was totally allowed!)  We also went with her friends and family to her birthday dinner. 
Her friendship, as well as the others with the young ladies I've been getting to know, is a sweet reminder to me where I'm not "old and irrelevant."  But where I have impact and value to them, just as much as they do to me.


  1. good for you girl...I've never felt like I was very good with teenagers, but I'm so glad that God is using you with this important group!

  2. As a women who knew YOU as a teenager, and as someone you helped GET THROUGH being a teenager, I feel so happy that you have found this place of ministry. You were gloriously made for it. So much of your heart is found here...so much of your beauty is revealed here.

  3. mucho cool. im so glad youre sticking with all that. it sounded so discouraging that day, when you told about the sex talk.
    keep doing the new and scarey. it looks great on you! and it helps me coonsider doing new and scarey;-P