Friday, July 29, 2011

Teenagers These Days...

The problem with teenagers these days... is adults.

Now, as a disclaimer I must say that the following observations are not "expert" or psychological analysis. They are simply the surface-level musings of a young youth pastor. As a Youth Pastor I get to talk to lots of adults about teenagers. I often get asked, "how do you deal with them?" followed shortly by a comment or story expressing how immoral, disrespectful, or just flat-out strange they are. And most of the time the comments and stories reflect much more about the cultural disconnectedness of the adult than the degeneration of the adolescent. I think that most of the problems we can identity within youth culture are connected to problems with the ways in which adults treat or deal with adolescents in their own lives.

I have noticed that many adults feel like they just can't handle teenagers. Some parents feel overwhelmed by their teenage children. Many adults have some story about a teenager "disrespecting" them or they feel like they just can't understand them (which is true but not necessarily reason to give up on it). So they draw the line somewhere. The problem with drawing the line is that we often draw lines based on a misinterpretation or simple ignorance of the cultural differences between teenagers and adults. The arrogance of adults peering condescendingly into the lives of adolescents has created many of the barriers and negative distinctions we identify. For example, we as adults, by giving up on a teenager after they "disrespect" us, create the sense of abandonment which gives way for the necessity for teenagers to defend themselves against adults (hence the "disrespect"). These defense mechanisms are some of the very things that keep us from accepting them and speaking a loving word into their lives.

What adolescents need is for adults to engage them lovingly and with great humility--as though visiting a foreign country. Adolescents need adults who withhold judgement long enough to get past the rough exterior of youth culture. Adolescents need adults who are willing to put them before themselves as a servant.
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