Dr. Larry Maxwell
Teens face a number of important issues of which everyone who leads them, including parents, youth workers and teachers, should be aware.
- Self-Acceptance. As teens move from childhood to adulthood, they begin to recognize themselves as individuals. They begin to ask questions such as, “Who Am I? Why am I here? Did God make a mistake when He made me? Am I too short, too tall, too fat, too thin…?” Teens need to learn that God loves them and made them as a beautiful person, unique from everyone else, with a purpose for their lives. God wants teens to recognize…“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16). Teens need to learn to accept God’s standards for themselves instead of the world’s standards. When teens learn to stand alone with the Lord Jesus Christ and accept His standards, plans, and purposes for their lives, they can find victory in the area of their self-acceptance.
- Philosophies. Teens have to deal with a variety of philosophies held by their teachers, people in the media, and their friends. A person’s philosophy is the framework from which they make their life’s decisions. Teens need to recognize that there is a Christian worldview based upon the Bible which provides a solid framework for their lives which alone can bring true freedom, the only reliable philosophy on which to build one’s life today.
- Making Decisions. Each day teens are faced with decisions to make. They need to know what the standard of truth is for their lives. They need to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Teens need principles to help them know how to deal with the “gray areas” in life. They need to know the importance of seeking good counsel so they can make the right decisions and experience joy in their lives. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord , and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)
- Personal Standards. Teens may conform to outward rules, but in this rapidly changing world, they need personal convictions about what to do and what not to do. They need to learn how to love God and live to His glory within their culture. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:12-17). What type of music should teens listen to, and not listen to? What should they wear and what should they avoid? The apostle Paul used the cultural issue of meat offered to idols and the practice of women wearing veils to teach that an action in and of itself may not be wrong, but the message portrayed by an action, within a particular culture at a particular time, may be wrong. Teens must learn this principle.
- Substance Use and Abuse. Teens are the target of a lot of substance use and abuse. Many of their friends smoke, drink, do drugs and boast of the associated “pleasures.” There may be pleasure in those things for a time, but it is short lived. “He (Moses) chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). The effects of substances use and abuse can be devastating. Teens can be ostracized from the group if they don’t follow the crowd. They need to know how to deal with this very real problem. There is no escaping it.
- Parent-Teen Relationships. For some teens, the relationship with their parents presents some very real struggles. A Christian home doesn’t exempt a teen from this issue. Lack of understanding and failure to commit to biblical standards on either part can cause serious friction. Simple misunderstandings can turn into serious conflicts. An important issue is to help teens and their parents learn to improve their relationships.
- Authority Relationships. Young people are learning how to relate to authority and leadership. The more people there are in leadership over young people, the harder it is for teens to relate. When other teens and adults question leadership and authority, your teens may find it more difficult to accept leadership and authority. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders need to be an example for their teens.
- Friends. Friends are a significant influence in a teens life. Who is a real friend? What type of friends should your teens have? What should they do with their friends? What do they do when their friends want to do something wrong, but they don’t want to lose their friends? Parents who try to isolate their teens from the negative influence of “non-Christian” teen” would be surprised to discover the sometimes more devastating negative influence of some “Christian” teens. Encourage your teens to choose good friends, to be strong and to stand up for their beliefs.
- Dating. Dating is an important issue for teens. They want to be with members of the opposite sex and they will find ways to do so if opportunities are not provided. When should a teen start to date? What should they do and where should they go on a date? Some teens look for security in a dating relationship and often they will determine their “desirability” based upon whether or not they are dating. Promiscuity and immorality can be real problems. Immorality is celebrated in most media aimed at teens, often equating love with sex. Pressures abound. Teens need a youth ministry which teaches biblical principles of morality, promotes godly guidelines for dating, and provides opportunities for teens to participate in wholesome activities together.
- Facing the Future. What will I do with my life? The teen years are the best time to begin to think about the future and to plan for it. Teens should consider the classes they can take to prepare for a particular field of study and focus. Scholarships are often based on a combination of academics and community involvement. The jobs a student holds, after-school activities, volunteering in the community, participation in church and youth ministry can all make a difference in qualifying for certain scholarships.
- Working. Should a teen work after school, on weekends or during the summer? Some teens choose to work to earn spending money, others work to save for college, and others work to gain experience. Having a job can be a very positive experience for a teen. A job can teach responsibility, the importance of sticking to a schedule, and having a good work ethic. A job can help build confidence. But a job can also have a negative influence if it takes away from the teen’s study time, exposes them to a host of negative influences they are not prepared to handle, takes them away from important church activities, or provides more money than they know how to deal with properly. Weigh the risks and benefits. Set boundaries and goals for those who work, and keep an eye on the consequences of working in a teens life.
- Teen Suicide. The compounded effects of various influences in the lives of teens and the issues they must face drive a number of teens to attempt to remove all the pressures from their lives. It is alarming how many teens attempt suicide. Teens need help coping with the pressures and demands in their lives, as well as help when a family member, friend or classmate experiences a crisis. Teenagers need caring adults to spend time with them and to encourage them.
If more parents, youth workers and teachers would make a commitment to really understand and to provide emotional and spiritual support for their teens, more teens would be reached with the love of God and ministered to more effectively.
- The Importance of Ministry to Teens
- Understanding the Issues Teens Face
- Developing Christian Character in Young People
This article by Dr. Larry Maxwell has been excerpted from his book Becoming a Dynamic Youth Leader. Permission granted to copy, forward, share, post and reproduce everything in this article, please include this link Source: ChurchGrowth.org, CLICK HERE to subscribe for FREE
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