Teenage Mentoring 101: Conversation
The majority of our teenagers at NorthPark are anything but shy. But get them out of the youth lounge, separate them from their peer group, and you might start to question that statement. They're not shy kids, but I think a lot of us underestimate how hard it can be to interact with adults you don't know well.
Outside of "teenage places," teens are an unwanted demographic. A few years ago scientists were able to replicate a high pitched sound that's unpleasant to a young person's ears but undetectable to anyone over 25 years of age. It was marketed to store owners and city planners as "teenager repellent." Many have reported that it works to keep teens from congregating around their places of business.
Not quite as dramatic is the fact that as adults, a lot of us just don't take teenagers seriously. We roll our eyes at their fashion. We insult their music preferences. We label their social struggles as "drama," and our society limits the amount of responsibility they're allowed to have.
But the church is someplace different. The church is God's house, and it's our call to be welcoming. And while I think we're doing a pretty good job at NorthPark, our teens need more than just your support. Let me be clear, our financial support and faith in the importance of youth ministry are FANTASTIC. But our teens (and children for that matter) need our relationships. They need models for faithful living. They need examples that widen their worldview.
Last week Brent wrote about the importance of having a mentor. They are important but hard to come by. So if you can't be a full-blown mentor, be a friend – be a conversation.
Think about it: if you're a teenager at NorthPark, unless your parents are really good friends with a Christian doctor, you might not get a lot of examples of how the vocation of medicine serves the Lord.
If you're a teenager from a small family, you might not ever learn how siblings affect one another's faith journeys.
If you grew up in America, you might not get a lot of chances to hear what it's like to practice your religion when you're not in the majority.
Our teenagers have never attended a mandated segregated school. None of them were alive during a World War. Most of them cannot remember a national tragedy, let alone unpack how it changes your spirituality.
If you strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, tell a teenager how it's changing your life.
If you struggle to do justice, seek kindness, and walk humbly with your God, share those questions, too, because teens have the same ones.
If what you do at this church is important to you in any way, make sure our next generation knows why.
Our youth need friends with more life experience than them. They need concrete examples of all kinds of people to expand their worldview. They need your wisdom and your joy.
And ultimately, they need you to initiate the conversation, because you may not know it, but you're a little intimating.
Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries at NorthPark Presbyterian.