Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (I Timothy 4:12 NIV)
Adolescence can be difficult as youth are trying to find their own identity with pressures placed upon them from all areas of their environment to be somebody else. SS teachers, you are valuable in their search for meaning and identity. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. Understand the value of partnering with parents. At best you will have a teenager (with perfect attendance) for 52 hours a year for Bible study and a few hours for social events. Their parents have a much greater influence, time and ability to provide the spiritual foundation they need to blossom. Let your parents know what you are studying. Ask the parents about their teens and what support they need from you to make a difference in their teen’s life.
2. Encourage self-discovery. Teenagers need a safe place to be themselves and not be pressured to be like someone else. Praise their natural abilities. Encourage them to try new extra-curricular activities at school and at church. Help them to see their giftedness matters and can be used to help others. They are not the future of the church. They matter today!
3. Help them understand their unique identity in Christ. When teens understand their worth in Christ, they can reject negative thinking that peers, insecurities and problems hurl on them. Just because teens fail — and they will — doesn’t mean they are a failure.
Teens develop confidence when they grasp they are loved by God. This inner strength will carry them through trials and peer pressure. As they search for significance, our teens can influence their peers to do the same.
4. Provide opportunities for them to serve others. Over my 31 years of ministry (and many of those in youth ministry), I have been amazed at how service opportunities can transform youth to look beyond themselves, recognize the ability they have to help others (provide self-confidence) and see the Spirit work in their midst. From visiting shut-ins, helping with Vacation Bible School, to serving at the local food pantry or a mission trip, youth are transformed as they minister. Here is an idea to consider for December:
Christmas Caroling Scavenger Hunt: Have some parents help you with a night for the youth for fellowship and service as you share clues with the youth about shut-ins in your church, certain businesses and others. The youth must go to the place on the clue and sing two or three Christmas Carols before receiving the next clue. This is a lot of fun for the youth and really appreciated by the ones you are singing to. I had a manager at a local business ask us to sing a couple of more songs, and customers in a restaurant shared applause as we finished!
The bottom line is youth need to feel they are safe to be themselves as they discover their own potential in relationship to God. You have a valuable part in that process.