Working with Teens

by Charlotte Long, Youth MinistryHere is the main thing we all hear about teens: "Oh, they think they know everything." Or: "They always think they're invincible." And these are criticisms, obviously. Even if they're meant as just scientific facts, the point is that we adults know better. We understand our own mortality, risk-taking and how there isn't an answer for everything. But I think we need to start looking as these qualities as being closer to self-assuredness, and bravery. Yes, teens do silly, crazy things because they aren't old enough to have lived the consequences of their actions. And yet, as a 20-something wondering who I am and how to hear God's plan for me, self-assuredness and bravery sound like pretty good traits to me.

Now: I understand that I do not have teenagers and so it is easy for me to say this. In fact, I WAS a teenager only 5 short years ago and it feels right to defend their place in our society. But I'd like to argue that in the time that I've spent with the youth of Holy Comforter, and my time working with teens before that, I've seen the absolute gift of being a young person who A) believes they have information to share with me that is valid and original and B) isn't afraid to take a risk towards the Great Unknown.

I'm making blanket statements about teens, here. Exactly like any adult, our teens are every color and shade of confident, shy, stressed, pure, angry and hopeful. They are trying on every facet of God at every instance. It seems a luxury to me to be able to be what you want, to change your mind with every day and still be certain. And this I don't mind making a blanket statement about: I have found that the special bracket age of 13 - 18 is a particular kind of channel for the Divine. I try to constantly remind them that God is speaking to them at all moments, if only they can be still and hear the voice - when really, it is I who need to be still and listen. Because God so easily speaks through these teens, they don't even realize that Jesus is literally falling out of their mouths, and I am left agape, staring. And they look back at me, scrunching up their faces and say, "What?"

"Teenagers who do not go to church are adored by God, but they don't get to meet some of the people who love God back."
Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.

"It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life."
Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith .

"Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath."
Arnold H. Glasow