If there is one thing parents and youth leaders have in common it is their attempt to understand teenagers. I would submit to you that one of the hardest things to do is attempt to understand a teenager. Their are no guarantees on how a teenager will respond. But there are several things you and I can do to better prepare ourselves. First and foremost it is important that our expectations don't exceed our student's level. By doing this we often set ourselves up for discouragement and then failure.
Students will often have incongruence between what they believe and how they live. This can cause parents and youth leaders alike great discouragement. In order to combat this we must try to understand that living an effective Christian life is difficult for all believers, especially our students. Their culture is very high-risk and we must provide opportunities to keep them focused on a Christ-like walk.
The following is a list of examples of assets or things that keep teens out of high-risk culture:
-Family love and support
-Positive family communication
-Caring relationships with other adults
-Regular involvement in religious, positive, and community service activities
-Reading at least 3 hours per week
-Having boundaries, rules, and consequences
-Telling the truth even when it's costly
-Standing up for what they believe
-Building cross-cultural relationships
By helping students build-in these areas, we will be better equipping them to avoid the potholes of a high risk culture and turning their focus more toward spiritual things. When students build up enough assets, studies show that they are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors that often prevent them from growing spiritually.
These areas take time and cannot be used as a one time check list. We must put forth the effort necessary to continually build these areas in our students life. I would encourage all of us to create time in our schedules for these assets to become a reality in all of our households. Yes we may have to get creative, yes every house will look a little different in their methodology, and yes it may be a little frustrating but the end result far outweighs any amount of frustration we may experience. I have said this before but I believe it bears repeating, you and I are called to raise up the next generation of believers in Jesus Christ, we were never called to raise the next generation of football players, softball players, chess champions or any other activity related superstar.
Understanding teenagers takes time and effort, I hope you will find it a worthwhile adventure.