I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was my second summer working at LifeWay Christian Resources. My department, Christian School Resources, was a part of the Church Leadership Division. We were preparing for our one-week training for church leaders at Ridgecrest Conference Center. During this week, sessions would be provided for the various leaders that serve in churches.
Dr. Richard Ross, founder of True Love Waits and leader of youth discipleship for LifeWay, asked me to present a session for the youth pastors who were going to be attending the leadership training week. I agreed to present one workshop. After I agreed to do a session, Richard sent me the topic he wanted me to address. When I read the topic, I became quite anxious to say the least. He wanted me to speak on the topic, Why Do Teenagers Think the Way They Do?
How do you begin to prepare for such a session? I must admit that I did a lot of praying and asking God to give me wisdom. I really didn’t know where to begin in addressing such a topic. I did as much preparation as I could and headed for the conference center. I was scheduled to speak in the second session for the youth leader track. There were about 20-25 youth leaders in the first session and I thought to myself that this won’t be so bad after all.
However, when my session started, things changed. The seats in the room filled up and when it was time to start, there were people sitting on the floor and standing against the wall. Church leaders of every variety, from senior pastors to education pastors, were in attendance. I quickly understood that this topic was a “hot” one and everyone wanted to hear what I had to say that would help them understand how their teenagers were thinking.
We started the session with prayer and then I said, I realize a lot of leaders in the church want to know why teens are thinking the way they do. Before I can address this topic properly, I need you to share with me some very important information. Would you please tell me how the average teen in your church thinks? Hands went up all over the room as different leaders told me the way the teens in their churches were thinking.
- Disrespectful to authority
- Expected immediate gratification
- Conformers to culture
- Displayed a victim mentality
- No accountability
- Sense of entitlement
What they described was pretty frightening – but it was also reality. No wonder the room was packed. These church leaders were seeing their teens heading toward disaster and they wanted to know why this was happening. Quite a few years have passed and I have asked myself many times, have things gotten any better in our churches? I must be honest with you and say that what those church leaders described over 15 years ago haven’t improved. Instead it may be worse today.
- My purpose in life is to be happy
- I’m not worth anything unless I’m beautiful
- My life can’t be complete without ______________
- Don’t judge – just coexist and be tolerant
- Be true to yourself and follow your heart
Last week we looked at the power of the mind and how our thoughts eventually are played out in our everyday lives. If we are ever going to be able to bring hope and meaning back into our teenagers’ lives, we must be honest with ourselves like those church leaders were with me in that session. We must answer the question, how do our teenagers think? Do you see the young people you serve each day exhibiting the type of thinking I have mentioned above? Are there are other things you are observing in their lives that cause you concern? If so, please share them with me.