by Amanda Roozeboom
The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.
There is a lot of discussion regarding the “Needs of Adolescence”. Most scholars agree that teens need: love, security, community, purpose, creative expression, achievement, structure/clear limits, self-definition and confidence/self-worth. Chap Clark summarizes it this way, “Teens need Identity, (Who am I), Autonomy (Do my choices matter) Belonging (Where do I fit)”.
I would add teens need a faith that lasts beyond high school! In Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian, her research found that teens with “consequential faith”, faith that lasted beyond high school, had four characteristics: a God-Story, Community, Calling (purpose) and Hope.
Teens need a God-Story. Dean describes teens that have a “God Story” as; “Christian teenagers who referred to their faith frequently, interpreted their lives in religious terms, or grasped their faith traditions’ primary teachings also had a ready religious vocabulary at their disposal.” There is power in testimony. Kids will speak as we speak! Youth workers need to make sure that we are equipping our teens for life-long faith by passing down a clear and vibrant faith vocabulary.
Teens need a Community. Teens will find community in parties, in school activities, in sports, in online gaming communities, etc. As youth workers, we need to make sure our teens are also finding community in our sanctuaries during Sunday worship, in our main youth group sessions, on service/mission trips and in youth convention experiences.
Teens need a Calling (purpose). They need a place where they can contribute, a place where their voice matters. Youth workers therefore need to be advocates for our teens. We need to give them opportunities to lead prayers on Sundays, help make a committee decision or choose the color of the youth room walls! I love the part in C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when young Lucy asks the Beaver if the godlike figure Aslan is safe, “Safe? Said Mr. Beaver…Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He is the King, I tell you.” Let’s strive to give teens a calling worthy of the King!
Finally, teens need Hope. Young people look to adults for meaning and hope. They need us to model a theology marked by patience, determination and humility as we face challenging research that causes us to question who we thought we were. This world needs adults who model hope as Kierkegaard described hope – “leaping in expectation”. Do we joyfully “leap to faith” not because we are faithful, or our ministries are faithful – but because our God is faithful?
Our teens have many needs. It is our job, as adults, to actively engage in fulfilling their need for a life-long faith. Join me in striving to give our teens God-Stories, Community, Calling and Hope.