Do you know someone that has a job and you think to yourself, how on earth do you do that all day? I used to know a guy, who worked at a plant that took whatever parts of the pigs, chicken, fish and other animals that were not good enough for hot dogs. They would take these parts and add in deep fryer oil, feathers and who knows what else, boil them, heat them and do all sorts of horrifying processes to them and somehow render them into useful products and chemicals that they sell to other companies. I often asked him, how do you do that all day? He of course, really liked what he did, he turned waste in to useful things and loved it.
The strange part is, I have people ask me all the time, how do you work with teenagers? They are impossible! Its true, students can be really challenging to work with, they are often passionate, sometimes unreliable, regularly fickle, occasionally emotional and changing daily. I can see how youth workers tap out after a few years. When people ask me how I deal with working young people I will remind them, that it often starts with honouring their adolescence and appreciating the way they see the world. Here is a few ways we can do that as Youth Pastors.
Acknowledge their feelings: My life does not hang in the balance of the status of my friendships or what my friends think of me but there was a time in my life where I did feel that way. So when a student comes with their world crashing down over a problem with a friend, telling them to get over it likely won’t help. Acknowledging that you understand how they could feel that way, but also following up with some sound Biblical perspective on the challenges they are facing.
Harness the Passion: High School students are passionate, its up to us to help them focus that passion. Whether into local missions work, justice projects, service or anything like that. Students have more time than money, we need to help them find ways to invest what they have in a way that is productive, God honouring and fruitful.
All of us were that age: When adults try and knock teenagers for being crazy about Biebs or 1 Direction I remind them about the Beatles or NKOTB. When parents talk about students listening to sexualized music I ask them if they remember anything about the movie Grease? I was a teenager, my parents were teenagers, Jesus was a teenager. We can not forget what the world looked like through the eyes of teenage us, our idealism, flippancy and constant wonderment of “who is going to be there” before committing to anything. We were not that different.
Its so important that we as leaders not dismiss the challenges of teenagers as trivial or inconsequential, but instead help them navigate, and understand what scripture says about what they are going through and help them realize that there is more to life than this, but we can understand why at this point, they might not see that.