Archives For A Day in the Life of a Teenager


There have been times where you’ve written them off. “They’re teenagers. What’d you expect them to do?”

And there have been times when they’ve written themselves off, “I’m just a teenager. What I can really do?”

But we hope for them.

We hope that these teens will figure out this thing called life (because we’ve got it figured out, right?).

We hope that we can awaken a faith deep within them that will sustain them in the toughest of times and circumstances.

But I kind of hope a lot of things.

I hope that I never meet “that fish” in the Amazon. (Y’all know what I’m talking about…)

I hope that one day my jaw doesn’t get stuck and fall out into my hands when I try to move it.

That kind of hope is kind of like junk food: it just doesn’t do a lot of good, because it doesn’t have any substance to it.

We might as well face it: they are hopeless (and so are we) if we don’t connect them to the Source of hope.

Somehow we have to connect these kids to the power of the Word of God and to its Author.

Imagine hearing of God’s power for the first time.

This is hard for most of us who grew up in the church to do…that is until I use my neuralizer!!!

Boom.

That’s right. I just went all Men in Black on ya. Winning.

Imagine hearing stories like when God parted the Red Sea.

Whoa?!! You mean to tell me that God did WHAT?

Or how about the story of Noah?

Seriously? God put all of the animals on this giant boat, floated them for 40 days and landed them on a mountain? Wow, you can’t be serious…

But best of all, there’s the story of Jesus.

You mean God loved so much that He gave His Son for me? Jesus went to the cross to save a jerk like me? He wants a relationship with me? He loves me? He wants to forgive me? He wants me to go to heaven?

I think my neuralizer’s busted, because that one just still doesn’t sink in.

The truth is, I think sometimes we take God’s power for granted. We hear story after story from His Word, and hear time after time how powerful that He is, yet we forget who we’re dealing with!

We take verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and connect it to our performances on the football field instead of connecting it to Christ’s power to conquer our every day struggles.

My girlfriend broke up with me.

I feel alone.

My parents are getting a divorce.

I’ve been thinking about killing myself.

The Bible is God’s résumé. We cannot forget that!

It’s the paperwork to show us that He’s qualified for the job. It’s His accomplishments. His experience. A list of reasons why He qualifies.

He wants to be your God. His Son wants to be your Savior.

May we NEVER take it for granted. May our ears never tire of hearing Him. May our hearts never become calloused to His power. May our lives never become dull to His touch.

He is who He says He is. He does what He says He does.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Philip Jenkins is the Youth Minister at the Mt. Juliet church of Christ in Mt. Juliet, TN.  He is married to Laura and they are expecting their first child.  Philip is an amazing friend, minister and encourager and I know you have been blessed by his words.


Does the Bible offer hope to teenagers who live with emotional and spiritual pain?  What about all the suffering that exists in the world today?  What can we do as Christians to help others through these tough times?  In this post I want to share with you a few different ways to explain to teens how to endure pain and what God is ultimately doing to evil and suffering in the end.

The problem of our pain and suffering has a source and if we do not understand that source then we will not understand the solutions that God provides.  The problem that exists in this world is sin.  If we do not place the blame on sin, then we will not understand the answers God provides in the Bible.  Sin is the cause and reason for pain and suffering.

Sin began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6).  We find in the rest of Genesis 3 that every area of life was dramatically affected by sin.  This sin has touched the world around us.  The entire message of the Bible from Genesis 3 on is how God is dealing with this sin problem.  Let us look at some of the solutions to this problem.

The first solution to the problem of evil and suffering is to understand your purpose.  The Bible tells us that our purpose is to know God (Philippians 3:10).  This may not give a solution but it may give you motivation to endure what you are going through.  There are two ways to find a purpose in your suffering.  The first is to know that God wants you holy, not happy (1 Peter 1:15).  This may mean that the suffering that is taking place is intended to make you a better person.  God does not care how happy you are if you are leading a life that will end up in hell!  The suffering that comes from our personal sin helps us turn back to God.  We must also remember that some of the things we endure make us look to a loving, heavenly Father for answers.  Another perspective from your purpose of knowing God is that the pain and suffering may be a test of spiritual maturity.  Do you love God for God’s sake, or for what you get from God?  Much of the pain we endure can bring about glory for God or can remind us about spiritual truths.  Death is a reminder of our short time on earth.  Suffering as a Christian can be a testament to others who see our faith.  Just enduring suffering with an understanding that God still loves us is an amazing tool for evangelism and encouragement.  These two areas of knowing God help us to look at pain, evil, and suffering differently.

The second solution to pain and suffering is that we need to understand that on the cross, Jesus did the ultimate judo move to sin.  If sin is the ultimate enemy, then what Jesus accomplished on the cross defeats its power.  What is the essence of the marital art of judo?  To use your enemy’s strengths against them!  Think about what Jesus does for us on the cross.  1) He defeated all the political evil that exists in the world.  He was tried and found guilty unjustly by Pontius Pilate.  2)  He also defeated all the religious evils.  The Pharisees and Sadducees called for his arrest and crucifixion.  3)  All the Satanic evil was defeated.  Satan entered Judas’ heart to turn Jesus over to the authorities.  These three areas were turned against themselves with Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection three days later.  There is hope for us all in the fact that the cross took the evil in the world and defeated it!

The third area is my personal favorite.  We need to understand that in the end God makes everything new!  Revelation 21:5 says this, “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”  Stop and think about this for just a second.  God does not say, “Behold, I am making all new things.”  What God says is that “I am making all things new,” in that order.  God, in the end, takes all that is wrong in the world and put it back to what is right!  Romans 8 gives an even clearer picture when it says in verse 21, “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Even the evils that fall on us from the physical world will be made right in the end!  The final message of the Bible is that in the end, God makes everything new!  What has existed in this sinful, broken world will be made right in the end.  Isn’t that more of what we long for than just a simple answer in the midst of our suffering?  

 As we close, I am reminded of the words of C. S. Lewis when we think of the day when Christ returns and turns all that is wrong back to the way God wants it to be.  Lewis says, “they say of some temporal suffering, ‘no future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”   Today, we eagerly wait for that glory and we need to understand that with Christ’s work on the cross all pain, evil, and suffering has been defeated!

Barry Throneberry has been the youth and family minister at the Highland Church of Christ for over 8 years.  He is married to Rebecca Schwartz Throneberry and writes a blog called Theology with Throneberry.  He is also part of the team that does the Studentminister.com podcast.  His interests are in the areas of Theology, Spiritual Disciplines, and Apologetics.

The Marvels of Music: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Propelled the Teenager

By Joe Wells

Rock and Roll, in all its forms, gives us a microphone to communicate with the world. It has the power to bring nationalities and generations together, to elect world leaders, and to move people.  No other art form has the social significance of Rock and Roll. You simply cannot understand Western Culture without taking a serious look at this music.[1]

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH, is set to capture in time the people and events that have contributed to this genre of music. In it’s 150,000 square-feet , there are thousands of pieces of musical and cultural history on display. However, as the above statement claims, rock and roll is more than simply the music. It represents a morph that captured the American society as rhythm and blues combined with folk music, gospel hymns, blues, country, and bluegrass to ignite a fire throughout the younger generation following the second World War.

With America being deeply segregated, the early pioneers of rock and roll didn’t always get their due. Individuals such as Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, black musicians who played jazz music, were just as talented as some of their white counter-parts such as Glenn Miller; however, America was not ready to accept on equal grounds the black-musician nor the strong, pulsing rhythms, designed to stir a dancing crowd, often associated with rhythm and blues. Songs such as “Don’t Want No Skinny Woman,” “Gotta Give Me What-cha Got,” and “I Want a Bowlegged Woman” made it very clear that the message of this brand of music was highly sexual and nothing that a respectable teenager would dare hear coming out of the family radio, at least not when parents were around to listen.

Even with the adults pushing against it, “race music” as some called it, began to pick up steam through the airwaves as more and more radio stations begana girl hiking devoting programming time to it. Disk jockeys became a more powerful influence, as teen audiences would form relationships with their favorite, generating a loyalty and a following that would set the scene for the rock ‘n’ roll explosion.

In 1951, out of Cleveland, OH, a radio disk jockey named Alan Freed launched the “Moondog Show” on WJW radio. It was designed to be a show that would attract teenagers from all walks of life and from every race, capitalizing on the huge market. While there were beautiful songs atop the charts, songs like the Weavers’ “Good Night Irene” (1950) and “Tennessee Waltz” (1951) by Patti Page, none would cause the dancing stir that could be found playing in the “Moondog House”, a term used to denote Freed’s show. As the music played, and with the microphone turned on, Freed would drum along on a telephone book and shout with the music, encouraging the teen listeners to dance along. [2]

With his popularity and following growing amongst the teenagers across racial lines, Freed launched out into the area of hosting live concerts, most notably “The Moondog Coronation Ball”, held on March 21, 1952.  A crowd of over 9,000, most of them teenagers, poured into the Cleveland Arena for a night of music and dancing. While the music played inside, there were twice as many outside that didn’t want to be left out, so they stormed the gates and crashed the concert. Billboard and Cashbox magazines covered the story, generating national publicity for Freed and this brand of rock’n’roll, a term he started using to describe the music he was promoting.[3]

Enter “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”!

Born in 1935, Elvis Presley taught himself how to play the guitar. He would frequent Gospel singings, where he would soak in the styles and abilities of those who sang the spirituals as well as listen in on the radio to various blues artists such as Big Bill Broonzy and Arthur Crudup, much to his parents disapproval. In 1955, Elvis entered into a contract with RCA Victor that would forever change his life, the scene of rock ‘n’ roll, and the teenagers who would flock to see “The Pelvis” perform, a name given to him because of the provocative movements Elvis would make while performing. Even with this seemingly good fit for the time and the music, Elvis was labeled a rebellious individual in the way he dressed and the music he would sing. It wasn’t until 1956, with Ed Sullivan’s compliment that Elvis was a “real decent fine boy”, that both he and rock ‘n’ roll were propelled into the popular market overnight. [4] Aided by Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, with it’s whole-some image of teenage life, what was once considered rebellious teenage music, quickly became a mass money-making machine that steam rolled its way into mainstream America, forever changing the teenage culture.

Now fast forward to today – the success of marketing to teens in the area of music has propelled the American teenager in the area of technology. The ear buds found in every teens ear and the iTunes accounts overflowing with music and videos are all a result of a purposed and focused effort. When you consider where most teens are first introduced into technology on a major way – music is usually what attracts.

So why look into the history of music as it pertains to the teenagers of today? The answer is simply, because it’s a lesson of how money talks in a culture and how many will conform to what the culture pushes. That push has not stopped to this day. It’s just intensified as the rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s has become pure in the shadow of the rock ‘n’ roll music of today. Regardless, the message is the same, we must not allow culture to set the bar! Paul wrote in Romans 12: 2, “And do not be conformed to this world…” (NASB).

Joe Wells has a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a heart for sharing that Truth with teenagers. He has worked with young people as a youth minister and has spoken at various youth events. Joe has traveled extensively on mission trips and has also served as a pulpit minister and education minister. He holds a BS from Middle Tennessee State University and has done Master level work at Bear Valley Bible Institute and holds a Masters of New Testament from Freed Hardeman University. Joe and his wife Erin reside in Spring Hill, Tennessee and are the proud parents of two children. He works full time for FOCUS Press and is the editor of Kaio Magazine which is a publication geared towards teenagers.


[2] Palladino, Grace. “Great Balls of Fire.” Teenagers an American History. New York: Basic, 1996. 121. Print.

[3] Jackson, John A. Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll. New York: Schirmer, 1991. 3-5. Print.

[4] The Ed Sullivan Show, January 6, 1957.

 


Man doing push-upsWe as ministers, parents, and even the government (whether admitted or not) know it… after all, the Bible says it and studies [Must Read Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America’s Middle Schoolers, Sylvia Rimm, PhD.] show it.  But, do we as parents cultivate it?  What I’m talking about is the simple truth that parents are the most influential instruments in the faith and social development of their children’s lives.

Every day a young person wakes up with the challenge to face his day in his life.  This day will undoubtedly be filled with peer-pressure, heart-ache, joy, excitement, sadness, anger, peace, difficult decisions about respect and actions, easy decisions about food and music… and then there’s the indescribable, awkward, difficult, crazy, embarrassing, difficult to deal with parents and family.  Ok, so maybe that’s a little over stated on paper.  But if we’re honest with ourselves as adults, we remember all too well the horrendous roller-coaster ride called adolescence, coupled with the job of trying to “cope” with our parents.  Simply put, there’s nothing easy about the mixture of teen life and family.  However, just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it ceases to be worthwhile.  And just because your teen may NEVER admit his parents’ influence in his life, doesn’t mean that it’s non-existent.

So, back to the question at hand… Do we as parents cultivate our influence in the lives of our children, or do we make our children’s lives more difficult by refusing to be understanding in all that they are facing on a daily basis?

[PS –Parents, don’t quit reading just because I’m picking on you right now… Teens, don’t get self-righteous as you read this portion directed at your parents.  Both parties are going to be addressed in this discussion!!!]

As a parent, it’s so easy to remember the words of the Bible (It’s one of the 1st verses I taught my four year old to memorize), “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother…” (Ephesians 6:1-2). We expect obedience regardless, and it’s fair that we should.  We are responsible for the training and development of our children, and as best as we can, we guide them in our feeble wisdom and experience.  We do know a little bit about a little bit, right?  They are, after all, still children living under our roof.  But that doesn’t make it easy for our teens to simply swallow our demands on them.  So, I encourage you to look a little further into this simple passage.  Paul goes on to say, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NLT).  In other words, Paul is encouraging us as parents – especially fathers – to consider the feelings of our children in our dealings with them.  Maybe we need to step back from time to time and try to remember how difficult our own teenage years were…  When our teen comes in from a rough day at school with a chip on his shoulder (not justifying a negative behavior in the least, just asking “why?”), it might benefit the entire household for us to step back and consider the source of the problem before escalating it with attitude speeches and behavioral lectures.  We must continually consider whether or not we are cultivating our influence in the lives of our children (over-bearing and pushy impatience does not cultivate influence).  Above all, that influence must be salted with the discipline and teaching of the Lord.  If we are going to push our children in any way, let’s make sure we push them toward the Lord, or else we might push them away altogether.

Teens, let’s get right to it… We are called to be better than we often are as we “cope” with our parents.  I like the way the New Living Translation states Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” Simply put, God never said that we could base our responses and attitudes toward our parents on whether or not we like what they ask of us or how they treat us.  We respond and behave in a way that is becoming of our relationship with God.  We respect because of who we are, and not because of what they have done or said to hurt us or make us angry.  I know that curfews can sometimes be unfair (yet necessary).  I know that parents can be impatient and demanding (yet lovingly hopeful).  I know that they embarrass you thoroughly in front of your friends (I can’t wait to do this with my two kids).  I also know that they love you more than you will ever understand, and they deserve a little more from you than an attitude that attempts to “cope” with them.

Parents and teens… influence and understanding will only ever be cultivated by communication.  Try it!  Listen and talk to each other in ways that divert anger and resentment and foster growth and compassion.  It may be awkward and difficult to talk about feelings and situations at first, but it will certainly be worthwhile in the long run.  Who knows… you may even enjoy (if that’s really the right word) riding the adolescent roller-coaster together!

Jon David Schwartz has been a Youth and Family Minister at  since 2002 most recently with the Church at Chapel Hill, TN since 2005.  Wife- Amy, Children – Abigail and Lane.  Education – BA, Bible (FHU); M.Min (FHU).  He says, “My only real qualification for writing about this difficult topic is that I have the two most patient parents a man could have, and I strive daily (and fail often) to be a godly father for my two children (Abigail – 4, Lane – 9mos).  It is the most difficult thing in the world to be a teen; it is the most difficult thing in the world to be a father.”


Three girls reading togetherThe danger with any topic like this it to paint with too broad of a brush. But as we explore the spiritual changes in teens we must focus on the most common denominator. With this in mind I will focus on one area from the research of Christian Smith. His research has been the most in depth and groundbreaking to date. It has also been some of the most depressing. At the core of his research he found that most of our teens have a moralistic therapeutic deistic faith. Here is how he describes it:

1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one- self.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.

5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Take a moment to let all of this soak in. You may need to re-read those five findings. What this basically says is that most teens have merged Christianity into the current American culture worldview. Christianity exist to help facilitate a lifestyle that will make me happy, have peace, and provide comfort when needed. God is not ever present in my life but I can summon him in times of crisis to help straighten out messes and get through hard times so I can be happy.  When I first read all this, my first thought was that this was not true of my students. But the more I have meditated the more I find it to be true.

What is worst is that the church and myself may be supporting this view of God. How much of our teaching is based on morality = a good and successful life? How many times have we done the self esteem lessons that focus on us without bringing the focus back to God (you are wonderfully made, God has a plan for you, etc)? How many programs and events are inward focused ? Many of our teens are simply believing what we have taught them and showed them over the last two decades. So where do we go from here? Kenda Dean’s book Almost Christian discovers that the most devoted Christian young people in the United States share four traits:

(1) They have a personal and powerful God-story that they can articulate. God is personal and involved in all areas of their life. God is not out there somewhere but he dwells in me. Decisions are made based on scripture because God is working through me and I am a part of his story.

(2) They belong to a community of faith. As we live in community we discover that life isn’t about me but about others. This community is not only limited to teens but a intergenerational community that can share faith. The older women teach the younger as the older men teach the younger.

(3) They have a sense of call to live for a larger purpose. They are not the center of the universe. They are wonderfully and complexly made to accomplish God’s purpose. They were made to do good works to bring glory to God.

(4) They have hope for the future promised by their faith. This world is not the end all be all. They know that they are living for heaven and not for the things of this world. Comfort is not the ultimate goal in life.

Andy Stanley says that our ministry is perfectly positioned to achieve the results we are currently getting. What results are you currently getting? What changes do we need to make to break the trend of a moralistic therapeutic deistic faith?

Rusty Pettus is the Student Minister at Graymere church of Christ in Columbia, TN.  He organizes the Student Minister retreat held annually in the month of March that encourages dozens of youth ministers.  He also holds a weekly podcast called The Student Minister Podcast.  You can connect with him at his blog at http://pettus.wordpress.com/.


Teen Boy Using Megaphone, Front ViewLet’s say you have a bicycle.  You’ve had it for 12 years.  It’s comfortable, predictable.  One day you go outside and get on it and suddenly it has the power and handling capabilities of a motorcycle.  But…the high performance is not predictable.  You can get bursts where you feel great but just as often when you think you’re going to climb a hill or shoot through a gap the power surge leaves you.  Add to that, that no matter how hard you try the bike seems to always drift into a certain lane.  Oh you cruise along fine for a while but suddenly without warning, BAM you find yourself in this weird uncomfortable lane.

Welcome to adolescence.  Your kids’ bike of a body just got its motor.  The only problem is you can’t seem to control any of it.  And when things do start going well you keep getting distracted by the opposite sex.  No matter what you do it just won’t stay  in the right lane!!

The physical and emotional changes of a teenager are as much a function of hormones as they are neurology.  The adolescent mind is developing neurological pathways at an astounding rate…but they don’t connect to anything.  That’s why the young people seem to experience these mental thunderstorms.  Give a girl the body of a woman or a boy the body of a man and you get the bicycle kid who suddenly finds himself on a motorcycle.

Along with the physical changes of puberty come the mood swings and the worries about the changes—height, weight, facial hair (or lack thereof), in girls it’s developing breasts (or lack thereof).  With all this going on kids run at a 90 to nothing pace and the long hours, lack or rest and consuming vast amounts of  the four teen food groups (sugars, carbs, carbs and sugars) can lead to moodiness, gloominess, irritability and the tendency to let the emotions drive the bus instead of the student being in charge or the emotions.  In fact most teens seem to “feel” more than they “think”.  Ask a student “What were you thinking?” and you’ll get, “I dunno.”  Ask them what they are feeling and you’ll get a salad of emotions.

Changes in thinking do occur.  They can do abstract reasoning.  They can now imagine “What if”.  These new mental powers cause them to be convinced that: What’s important to them should be most important to everyone else.  They also have this delusional ego centric view that everyone is looking at them and talking about them.  They are also convinced that no one else has ever felt like they do.  This makes them very vulnerable to criticism and put downs even though they use these things in surviving the food chain at school.  They are easily embarrassed and thus respond to new or different situations with an assertive false bravado or an “I don’t care” attitude.

Mix all this in with the surge or drive toward independence and you’ll understand why the majority of the teen interaction with adults is either withdrawal (I’m going to my room) or confrontational—“why are you yelling at me” or why they are yelling at you.  At 16 a young person is as old as they’ve ever been.  So they have arrived.  They’ve never been bigger, older, stronger or wiser.  This creates that scenario of : I’m expected to act like an adult but still obey the kid stuff rules of curfew, homework, housework and having to have adult approval or permission to act, go, do or have.

The good news is that all these changes set up experiences which are vehicles for maturity.  That’s probably the code word here.  Bodies and minds are maturing.  They are developing more “power” and with more power comes more responsibility.  Once teens understand that responsibility is directly linked to independence (read FREEDOM) they often start learning to exercise self control.  The understanding that emotions are indicators of feelings and not pathways for behaviors allows them to feel, THINK then act.  Until that maturity comes in it’s just act like you feel.

They physical and emotional changes of teens is necessary for them to learn the basic skills described by Stephen Glenn: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Systemic and Judgmental skills.  Once these skills are developed young people are ready for maturity, independence, and self reliance.  The changes are like a thunderstorm but once they roll through you get the calm after the storm.

Lonnie Jones is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Alabama and is involved in speaking at conferences, retreats and seminars.  Lonnie is a chaplain for the Huntsville SWAT team and currently worships at the Maysville church of Christ.  Most of all, Lonnie is a devoted child of God, husband, father and a great mentor to me personally and so many other youth ministers.  Many of us thrive because of Lonnie’s sound wisdom.  You can visit his website  at http://www.keepingupwithjones.us/index.html.


Teenagers passing drugsI was sitting in the living room watching TV on a break from college when I received a phone call from an old friend in Marietta, Georgia.  I welcomed the call because it had been ages since I last heard his voice.  I expected a long conversation about how things were going and talks about college and all the fun we both were experiencing.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Ryan, what’s up man?  Been a long time, huh?

Ryan:  (quietly and somewhat hesitant) Hey Robbie.  I don’t know if you heard yet but Johnny has died of an overdose.

Me:  (sitting down…mouth open) What?

Johnny and I were best friends until I moved from Marietta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee and we grew apart after that.  We went in different directions knowing that the path he was taking lead him to some pretty dark places in this world.  Johnny was in to the drug scene and eventually died because of it.

We all have our “Johnny’s” we can share as the rate of alcohol and drug use among teenagers is consistently (and unacceptably) too high.  A Tennessee  High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (please click here for scary statistics) conducted in 2009 indicated that close to 70% of teens grades 9-12 have at least tried alcohol once.  There’s more…

  • 20% drank alcohol before the age of 13
  • 19% Had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours on at least 1 day.  (during the 30 days before the survey)
  • 37% had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • 12% said they had sniffed glue, breathed the contents of aerosol spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high one or more times
    (during their life).

That’s only in Tennessee but you can check any state using this website (http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/YouthOnline/App/Default.aspx).  The sad part is that there is drug and alcohol use in the church.  Some parents struggle with it…some students struggle with it and all they hear from the church is “don’t do it.”  But they do!  Why?  Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock in their book Helping Teenagers in Crisis give eight reasons (pp. 200-03):

  1. Curiosity
  2. Peer Pressure
  3. Fun
  4. Mimicking
  5. Declaration of Independence
  6. Disinhibition – “I drink because it helps me be myself.”
  7. Escape
  8. Addiction

Youth ministers, parents and students we fight an upward battle where many people are against us.  Teenagers just do not get the ramifications of alcohol and drugs.  For example, did you know that there is a direct correlation between drug and alcohol use and sexual activity?  If you find someone who is struggling with drugs and alcohol I can almost guarantee that on some level they are struggling sexually.  They may not be having sexual relations but odds are they are looking at pornography or sexually pleasing themselves.   There is also conflicting narratives teens hear from adults or college students.  It is true that the bible does not condemn having a glass of wine here and there but my question is, “Why bother?”  It’s expensive…in order to know your limit you have to push your limit which is a selfish motive in the first place.

So how do we help?

ENGAGE (Van Pelt and Hancock, 204-07)!

  • Look for the signs of drug and alcohol abuse (withdrawal, mood swings, resistance to authority, behavior problems like stealing or vandalism, changes in eating habits, unexpected health issues).    The signs are, “inexplicable, unprecedented and persistent.”
  • As youth ministers we need to encourage parents to face reality.  They may be in denial but we need to gently push them to face the facts.
  • Affirm the parents desire to help their children work through this.
  • Encourage professional help where needed.

Youth ministers we need to conitinually teach about drugs and alcohol and the dangers in them but we also need to help bear the burdens of those who are addicted.  If you have a teen or a parent who is addicted DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEM!!!  They will relapse, frustrate you and then come back again only to relapse again.  Rome was not built in a day and addictions built over a period of time do not go away without time.  It takes a while and it takes a village and it takes a God!!!  Which leads me to the conclusion…if healing is going to happen it must be in the redemptive arms of God.  I want to close in an odd way…will you pray for those who are struggling with alcohol and drugs?  Will you mention them by name?  Will you read Psalm 103 below and pray?  Will you then contact a person who is struggling either by a letter, phone call or text telling them you are there to help?

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

 


African American teenaged student holding Help signWhen it comes to the faith formation of young people, we can confidently make two observations. First, parents matter most. Second, peers matter a whole lot too. Study after study has shown that adolescents who experience a vibrant faith at home are much more likely to stay devoted throughout life. However, we know that peers make a significant impact as well. Quite simply, if the closest friends of a teenager are people of faith, he or she is much more likely to be a person of faith, and the opposite holds true as well. This much we have learned from research.

Now, what does the Bible have to say on the influence of peers?

Let’s start with the wisdom of the Proverbs writer. He tells us that those who seek the wisdom of God will “walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous” (2:20).

Later, the writer goes a step further with a contrast: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20).

Now, let’s throw in this ancient Greek adage the Apostle Paul employs: “Bad company ruins good morals” (I Corinthians 15:33).

The Bible, as we can see, clearly tells us that choosing the right friends is important because they hold sway over our decisions.

There. Now we’ve got our sociological and our theological reasons for hanging out with the right crowd. But you already knew this was true, right? Even without the witness of survey research and the Scriptures, we instinctively know that the company we keep matters; that our friends can greatly impact and even alter the paths our lives will take. This is unquestionably true! However, believing something is not the same as practicing it. How well do we let this reality inform our ministry to young people? Here are three suggestions for ministry, based on the truth that peers make a big difference on faith:

First, let’s hang on to and defend the fun, social events in youth ministry. The great influence of peers on faithfulness validates these! Current forms of youth ministry are being critiqued by many voices. However, one of the things we’ve gotten right is this: there is value in simply “getting these kids together.” Since peers make such a substantial difference on the faith of young people, every journey to Six Flags is justified, every tiring lock-in is warranted, and every trip to the bowling alley is vindicated. These and other fun events give kids of faith a chance to be with other kids of faith. Being together forms bonds which grow into friendships and young Christians need to have friendships with other young Christians to increase the likelihood that they will profess Christ throughout life.

Second, it may be helpful for churches and youth ministries to focus their ministry efforts on clusters instead of individuals. This game plan would match up better with the current social landscape of adolescents. Young people today join themselves together in tight-knit peer groups that Chap Clark calls clusters. Listen to his explanation: “Today, high schools are populated by smaller groupings of friends, or clusters, who navigate as a unit the complex network of social interdependence with a loyalty similar to that of a family” (Chap Clark, Hurt, 74-75). We lose far too many kids for this stated reason: “I just don’t have any friends in the group.” However, if we reach out to entire clusters of friends, we can potentially change this perennial problem. And if we just can’t reach an entire cluster, then we must aim to create new clusters of Christian young people within the church.

Third, let’s remind our young people of the greatest peer of all: Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, scripture tells us that the Lord would speak to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). That’s a pretty close relationship. But now through Jesus Christ, God brings Himself nearer than at any other time in history. Jesus is not only our Savior and Lord, but also our Friend. He can help us in temptation because he suffered through temptation himself (Hebrews 2:18). He intercedes for us, going to God on our behalf and cleansing us from sin (Hebrews 7:25; I John 1:7). Jesus’s friendship can compensate for lackluster and imperfect friendships on earth. To be sure, teenagers need to know that Jesus is their definitive Lord. But they also need to know that He is their perfect Peer.

What do you think about these suggestions? What are some other implications for ministry from the truth that peers greatly impact the faith of young people?

Joseph Horton has been the youth and family minister at the Winchester Church of Christ for nearly four years now. He graduated from Freed-Hardeman University and is now working toward an MDiv at Harding Graduate School of Religion. He is married to Lauren and they have a six-month old daughter, Elise. Above all, he loves the Lord and seeks to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.


Bully-ing:

A Teenage Problem. A Gospel Resolution.

“I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it.”

Statements like this are made every day by teenagers across the nation. We can all tell a story about a bully, and share painful memories of instances where we were bullied. You can find them and define them in schools, workplaces, families, friendships and churches…

  • Bullies are the little people who try to be BIG by making you feel little.
  • Bullies are self-important individuals who try to strong-arm you into their subjection.
  • Bullies attempt to reign on the throne of your life. They want to be king, chief, ruler and first in everything.
  • Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak.
  • Bullies are brutal violators of the Golden Rule of Jesus Christ.

Teenagers are dealing with these bullies on a daily basis. So here are a few things they need to hear, know, and embrace from a Biblical standpoint:

Satan, in his search for dominion, is the greatest of all bullies. He is the “tough guy” strong-arming, harassing, tormenting, intimidating, pressuring, bulldozing and pushing around people like you. Satan seeks to dominate the throne of your world. And Satan has done well.

You’ve been threatened. You’ve been called names. Rumors have spread about you. People have pushed you around and treated you cruelly. You’ve suffered through physical pain and injury. In this world, the bully-tactics of Satan are evident. The devil has treated the world the way bullies take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.

But you must remember God has a history of humbling bullies. God marked bully Cain. God drowned the chariots of bully Pharaoh. God tumbled the giant bully, Goliath. And ultimately, God crushed the head of the bully serpent, Satan.

Remember?

Satan, and his bully followers, coerced and constrained and crucified Jesus Christ on a cross. They stole his lunch money (rightful glory), called him names (hurled insults), and shoved Him into a locker (a burial tomb).

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 ESV)

But by the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Satan no longer rules the house.

A Gospel Resolution: By the work of Jesus Christ, God has bound the strong-man bully Satan. The gospel is the news that Jesus came to seize Satan, stripping away his grip on you, and rescued you for the kingdom of God.

“Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Matthew 12:29 ESV)

Young people…

Satan is your greatest adversary, but Jesus is your greatest Friend. Satan is your greatest bully, but Jesus is the Bridegroom, who protects you as his bride. Satan is your greatest strong-man captor, but Jesus is your sacrificial God-man deliverer.

The next bully who tries to make you feel little, strong-arm you, and reign on God’s rightful throne…

  • Remind yourself of the authority found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the suffering servant, gave hope to underdogs like you and me. When you suffer daily oppression from bullies at school, remember who wins in the end.
  • Resolve to stand up. When you choose to stand up against a bully, you’re reflecting the image of Christ, who rose up against sin’s greatest intimidator, Satan.
  • Rediscover boldness in the gospel. Jesus frees us and gives us hope when facing all worldly masters, idols, and bullies. Don’t be afraid to confront bully behavior, report bully behavior or rise up against bully behavior.
  • Retell yourself the story of salvation. God created you. Satan captured (bullied) you. Jesus freed you.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

This article was written by Scott Bond, Jr.  Scott is the Youth & Family Minister at the Martin Church of Christ in Martin, Tennessee. He majored in Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University. Scott is married to Kaci Bond, and has one daughter, Claire. Scott confesses to be a struggling sinner thankful for an all-sufficient Savior.


It’s hard being a teenager.  This past weekend I heard stories of difficulties some teenagers were having and my heart just breaks listening to their pain.  Much of what you hear is disparaging as many teenagers still have sex, drink and treat other with disrespect.  I was talking with one of my teens this past weekend and I asked him, “Do a lot of people at your school drink?”  What he said was piercing, “Yeah man.  It’s really bad.”  Maybe you have heard (or had) this conversation between a teenager and his parent.

Mom:  I just don’t understand you anymore Tom.  You argue all the time, you’re so disrespectful, you’re grades are horrible and it’s like you do not even care about your father and I.  What is wrong with you?

Tom:  You don’t even understand me.  You think being a teenager is easy?  Things are different now than when you were in high-school I just wish you could be in my shoes and understand what I am going through.

Sound familiar?  Maybe a little too familiar.  In response to that I am starting a new series called “A Day in the Life of a Teenager” with guest posts from youth ministers and ministry experts from all over.  We will discuss some topics that I think are pertinent to many teenagers in hopes that you will be able to empathize a little either as a teenager or with your teenager.  We do not have all the answers so this will not address everything.  These posts are more of a primer for you to do more studying, searching and dialogue.  These guest posts all come from a biblical worldview specifically in a full-time ministry context.  I hope you enjoy these posts and here is the line-up:

  • March 1 – “Bullying” Scott Bond, Jr.
  • March 2 – “Peer Pressure” Joseph Horton
  • March 3 – “Drugs and Alcohol” Chuck Morris
  • March 4 – “Physical and Emotional Changes in Teenagers” Lonnie Jones
  • March 7 – “Spiritual Changes in Teenagers” Rusty Pettus
  • March 8 – “Family Issues” Jon David Schwartz
  • March 9 – “Teenagers and Technology” Joe Wells
  • March 14 – “The Pain they Endure” Barry Throneberry
  • March 15 – “The Hope they Possess” Philip Jenkins