If You’re In a Committed Relationship But Not Married Why Is It Bad to Have Sex?

Two weeks ago we started our Sex Talk with middle school students. At the end of this first part I did some Q&A with them. The following is one of the questions they asked anonymously on a 3×5 card that I thought would be a great one to attempt to answer and post on the blog.

As these posts have the potential to gain a relatively large audience I recognize that not all who read it share my faith and worldview. If you are an outsider to the Christian faith reading this chances are you won’t agree on principle with my answer. Even so I hope you may find it a well thought out answer.

Question: “If you’re in a committed relationship but are not married why is it bad to have sex?”

Answer: What makes a relationship committed? Is it simply two people agreeing that they won’t date another? Is it two people agreeing that they won’t be emotionally, physically, and sexually intimate with someone else? Committed is defined as, “being bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude.” In marriage you are binding and pledging everything. Property, assets, name, and of course bodies, all legally lawfully bound together. Committed relationships, particularly those of teenagers, are in no way binding except for the fact that they spend a lot of time together, and are therefore exclusive with one another. There isn’t anything keeping them together beyond their affections. Should their affections change they can de-commit by simply, “breaking up”. There is no need to hire lawyers, divide property and assets, or change names back to what they were. Not that committed relationships are bad and should be done away with, but they were never meant to be the Junior Varsity to the Varsity Team that is marriage. Committed relationships are more like tryouts. No one receives nor gets to wear the uniform until the make the team. Sexual intercourse has the potential to bind you to someone in ways that can’t so easily be undone by walking away. The contraceptive industry makes the bulk of their millions by assisting people in a “committed relationship” to prevent being bound to one another via babies and STD’s. The false dichotomy of “casual sex” is built upon the exercise of divorcing your heart and mind from sex as to avoid being bound to someone with your thoughts and feelings. Likewise there is a false dichotomy of “sex within a committed relationship”. A committed relationship is for the purpose of deciding whether or not you want to commit to binding yourself to another for life. Sex then within a committed relationship is to begin binding a big part of yourself to someone while still having the option to “break up” at a significantly lower cost, before you’ve actually decided you want to commit to be bound to only them for life.

What makes sex sex? The Bible teaches that sex is way more than just two bodies joining together for the purpose of experiencing sensual pleasure (even though it doesn’t shy away from that aspect of it). So often the writers of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament writers, referred to sexual intercourse by saying “and they knew one another”. What are the scripture writers saying about what sex is when they refer to it as “knowing” another person?

When I was about 19 years old unmarried and a virgin, a sexually active non-Christian female told me, “If a girl ever tells you she wants you she doesn’t know what it is she’s asking for.” Admittedly I wasn’t quite sure what she meant but I know she, a sexually active unmarried non-Christian was provoking me to think of sex as much more than a physical act and thus something not to tread lightly upon. Honestly I think she was urging and encouraging me not to have sex outside of marriage. Think of the colloquialisms we have for sex today; ‘doing it’, ‘doing the nasty’, ‘afternoon delight’, the list goes on and on, but you’d be hard pressed to find any that capture the fact that when you become “one flesh” with someone there is the potential for something transcendent to happen that leaves you very vulnerable and exposed to the person you’re having sex with. I think that’s what she was trying to tell me. There is a power in sex to help heal our brokenness, to affirm our humanity and therefore it also has power to shame and destroy our humanity as well. There is a huge investment being made when we connect with someone sexually. The promises pledge and complete joining together of marriage is meant to provide the security of pledge and promise that frees us to experience it with our whole being without fear, without holding back any part of our humanness.

What is marriage? Contrary to what popular culture often tells us marriage is not shackles that imprison us to another but the safe confines to not have to keep parts of our self, the parts of us that can’t be quantified in limbs curves and skin, hidden from the person we are giving ourselves to and receiving them in return. Marriage is meant to be the confines within which you can be free to reveal and share all of who you are. That’s not to say that people in committed relationships can’t experience these things. It’s just that the cost to walk away doesn’t match nor correlate with the investment that sex dictates whether you want it to or not. We typically don’t tell engaged couples this when they are nearing the altar but the truth is they can still walk away without it costing them much. Sure the money spent on the wedding has gone down the drain, but they don’t have to divide up property and assets, they don’t have to change their name on legal documents and credit cards, and unless they have children they don’t have to be as concerned with who else it will have a lasting affect on. The reality is that some grown adults have chosen to join every aspect of their lives together as a functionally married couple without the formal and legal ceremony binding them together because so many married people have trudged into and out of marriage as though it were just another committed relationship.

How many committed relationships can one person have? Sometimes I wish I had dated more before I got married. I was slow on the pick up on how much a friendship with a woman and a “committed relationship” with a woman is not apples to apples. However, on the flip side if I had had a number of “committed relationships” how might they have formed me for marriage to my wife in ways that would be counter productive to our binding relationship? I can’t say for certain but she and I would have to take the good with the bad and everything in between. Say I had been sexually intimate in some of those hypothetical “committed relationships” I would have to unlearn, and undo the unique ways I had formed myself with those other women sexually, or bring all those things with me to be bound together with my wife. We often refer to all those things as baggage.

Why is it bad? At the end of the day you can do what you want. Even if you want to soften God’s commands into advisory precautions from the one who created human bodies, sex, and gifted them with this complex thing called intimacy, it’s not hard to see why sex outside of the binding pledge and promise of marriage is risky business. Encouraging young people, still dependent on their parents and under their authority, in particular to go ahead and have sex as long as it is within a committed relationship is as fraught with danger as encouraging the same young people to go to the bank and open a joint bank account. We would discourage teenagers from binding to one another financially no matter how much they thought they were in love or felt that the time was right. Likewise there is great wisdom in discouraging two people, especially teenagers, who aren’t joined and bound together by pledge and law from becoming sexual intimate.

One final thought… I have friends who aren’t Christians who have bound themselves to one another in most ways that married couples do. They have share exclusively with one another their bodies, their home, their property and assets. They are exclusively sharing their life and all of who they are with one another. In all likelihood they will never marry, but their hope is to grow old together. While I don’t approve of unmarried couples living together I treat them as a married couple. Given neither or them are Christians thus not holding the same view of marriage as me I want to encourage them to remain committed to one another for the long haul because that is their expressed desire. While I prefer they eventually make their relationship legally binding at this point I would hate for them to break the bonds they’ve formed together. In some ways based upon my view of how God designed humanity and sex they’ve gone too far in sharing their lives with one another exclusively that I’d hate to see them split and start the process over with someone else. If anything their decision not to marry is largely in response to how marriage is so often treated as a committed relationship. Too many married people don’t honor and value marriage for what it truly is. They see it as a means to be happy, and not as a means to bind them self to another person, and be fully known by them. Many people will end a marriage because they are no longer happy or don’t feel the way the once did. Many people who have pledged themselves to another in good times and bad, for better for worse, in sickness and health no matter what may come, in the sight of witnesses and God, only to leave when their marriage no longer suits them. They aren’t happy, they aren’t satisfied, the marriage is not what they thought it would be and so they break the pledge, the promise and the bond. Could it be that committed relationships while training us in some good ways also forms us to ignore, suppress, and break all the ways we have become bound to another person and muster up the ability to walk away because we’re no longer happy? Imagine how much easier it would be to suppress, ignore and break all bonds if you had done it even a few times since you were a teenager? Sex outside of marriage is not only not the best way to live it is a risky personal investment to make. Why is it bad to have unmarried sex in a committed relationship? Sex outside of marriage is potentially very bad for you.

3 Keys to Disciplining Children and Teens

“Anyone who strikes a child even if for the purpose of discipline has committed child abuse!”

I wasn’t one for being outspoken in class and disagreeing with a professor but I just couldn’t let that remark pass.

“So you’re telling me, seeing as though much of the discipline I received as a child was whippings with a belt, that I was abused by my parents?”

“If your parents struck or hit you as a form of discipline then yes you were abused as a child.”

At this point many of the students who usually slept their way through this otherwise uneventful community college sociology course had perked up to see what was going on.

“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to disagree with you on that. I don’t think, believe or feel that I was ever abused by my parents.”

“On what basis?” the professor said as if to call my bluff.

The girl next to me glanced over at me as if to say, “Now what are your going to do?”

“Based upon the fact that I never got a beating that I didn’t know was coming. Every beating I ever got I knew I would get before my parents knew they’d give it to me.”

I recognize times have changed. Corporal punishment, whether bare handed, wooden spoon, or with a belt, is largely frowned upon even if administered in the privacy of the home. I’m not endorsing or promoting corporal punishment. I tell this story of the debate I had with a sociology professor in the middle of a lecture to illustrate what I believe are the keys to disciplining children and teenagers. As a youth pastor I’ve had to discipline students (and no I’ve never beaten or hit any of them). Being strong in the area of discipline has been vital to my success as a youth pastor otherwise I would not have the full respect and authority with the students. Nor would I have the trust and respect of their parents.

From timeouts, to naughty corners, to grounding, to losing privileges, or whatever other form of discipline is used there are a few keys to ensuring it’s effectiveness. These keys are the reason I was able to convincingly persuade my sociology professor that day that I was not physically abused by my parents when they used corporal punishment as a form of discipline. This is the reason I was able to say with conviction that I never got a beating that I didn’t know was coming beforehand even before my parents knew they would give it to me.

1.    Clearly Defined Boundaries and Expectations: There was never any question in my house what my parents expected from us. We knew the rules and the expectations. Rules and expectations were not ambiguous and therefore we were without excuse. There were no accidents or mishaps, only decisions not to abide by the rules and to buck what was expected. Likewise you need to clearly communicate what the rules and expectations are so that your children are without excuse, even if it is a simple matter of forgetfulness.

2.    Clearly Defined Consequences: As I explained to the sociology professor that day the consequences for disobedience and non-compliance had been communicated. Therefore I knew, before I made the decision to disobey, what the consequences would be if I got caught. There were no surprises with the discipline and punishment I received. I knew what would get me grounded, lectured, losing privileges, or corporal punishment. Likewise you need to clearly communicate what the consequences are for disobedience and not meeting expectations.

3.    Follow Through: The easiest and quickest way to sabotage your authority with children and teenagers is to not follow through on what you said you would do. If your children recognize they can manipulate you in some manner into not following through with stated consequences, though they may not articulate it as such, they will recognize that they have gained a substantial amount of authority over you. Proof of this recognition is that they will continue to use it to their advantage and expect to be able to do the same to other adult authority figures.

Conclusion: The need for children and teenagers to feel safe and secure with those who are in authority over them means they will occasionally (some more than others for whatever reason) test the boundaries and expectations.  Contrary to what my sociology professor thought the use of corporal punishment did not make me feel abused. If my parents had sent me to timeout or revoked privileges without me knowing why, and being totally taken off guard by it that would have been abusive.  Instead, because they did it correctly it had the very affect my parents always gave as the reason why they punished or disciplined me in the first place, “We did it because we love you!” Being punished and disciplined, regardless of the form, when done correctly, make children and teenagers feel safe, secure, and loved. I never enjoyed any of the discipline I received, but I’m thankful my parents cared enough to do it.

7 Thoughts on Whether Or Not Children and Teens Should Be Allowed Cell Phones

20130307-162958.jpgMy nephew in Scotland called the other day to get our opinion on the topic of whether or not kids should or should not have cell phones, for a homework assignment he had from school. He wanted a simple yes or no answer, and of course I saw it as being more complicated than a yay or nay reply.

When it comes to cell phone usage amongst the students that I’ve been given stewardship of I’m known for being strict. Once on a mission trip in West Virginia where we were told to not permit students to bring cell phones, and other portable devices, my group became known as the group with the mean youth pastor who didn’t actually let students bring their phones. Recently I called a friend of one of my students who was texting her during Sunday School and left a message to tell him that we were busy and she wouldn’t be available until after noon. Yet when I take my eighth graders ten hours up to Cedar Point I let them use their cell phones the entire weekend. The sole purpose of the trip is to have fun so the phones aren’t a distraction. I do however warn them about bringing them into the park just in case they lose them, but I leave the decision up to them.

I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 26, which not coincidentally is the same age I got a real job. Not a summer job, not working at the movie theatre, not being a host at Applebee’s, but a job with a salary that I could afford to pay for the actual phone and monthly bill. Safe to say most kids will receive a cell phone in half or even a third of that time. They’ll never have to call collect, they’ll never see a 1-800-CALL-ATT commercial. They’ll likely never see a functioning pay phone live and in color. It’s a different world they are living in and yet there are some values, boundaries, and disciplines that young people today need to interact with and acquire. So here are some thoughts to consider as to whether or not young teens and children should or should not have a cell phone.

  1. Who’s Paying the Bill?… My thinking is that if a child has a phone then they should be able to pay the monthly charges they incur. If they can’t afford to because they don’t have a job then they shouldn’t have a cell phone. If they are too young to get a job that affords them a cell phone then they should earn the money via household chores. If the phone breaks, because they insist on the cute cover that offers no protection as opposed to the sturdier, bulky ugly one, then they have to earn and or save up money to replace it. I would even suggest that students be involved in the entire process of purchasing a phone and a plan for said phone so that they can see what all is involved and how expensive it is. However, if you should choose to pay for the phone and they not be burdened with the cost of buying and maintaining it then it’s your phone… they’re just the ones using it. Which also means you can take it back anytime you want, for any reason, no questions asked.
  2. Cell Phone v. Multimedia Device… There are cell phones and then there are smartphones. If you are a parent that wants a way to get in touch with your teen then do they really need the latest greatest device? The answer is no. All they need is a phone that allows them to place and receive calls, and of course as much as I hate to say it, text. Pay as you go phones still make up a pretty big portion of the cell phone market and are a great and affordable option too.
  3. Texting… If you are going to give them a plan that includes text you may as well get them a plan with unlimited texting. Otherwise you can expect some growing pains and high bills as they realize how quickly you can use up the allotted number of texts for the month. There’s really no point in getting a smartphone if you can’t afford to use it to its full potential. Which leads to another thought…
  4. iPhone v. iPod… My observation has been that many students really just want an iPhone. My question is do they really need and iPhone and do you really want them to have an iPhone? Why not just get them a plain phone and an iPod? An iPod can utilize the web wherever it is accessible and (here’s the good part for your pocket book) free. Whereas the iPhone is basically the same thing except you then you have to get a plan that includes data, which on any smartphone can be expensive. Moreover, they don’t have constant access to the internet if they only use free wi-fi, and possibly less likely to be using it for things they shouldn’t when you’re not around.
  5. No Phone Zone… Where are the places, what are the settings that they need to put the phone away? Dinner table, family time, when they’ve gone to bed for the night, are all scenarios that I’ve heard of parents collecting phones and disallowing their use. To me it makes sense so they can be in the habit of taking a break from the presence of their cell phone. This is why I don’t allow them on certain trips because they become too big of a distraction from what is happening in the present. Any of us that have a smartphone can attest to how easy it is to float off into our own little world within the confines of our phone when things get even the slightest bit boring.
  6. Parent Pressure… I think it’s fair to say that there’s a fair amount of pressure amongst parents to make sure their teen has a cell phone and a pretty cool one at that. Be careful not to sabotage any discussions you’ve had with them regarding not giving into peer pressure. If you cave into the pressure because “everyone else” has given their kids a particular phone, what does it communicate about ability to resist the pleas and pressure of you kid and other parents? No one has ever been entitled to anything just because “everyone else” has it. If they want to upgrade to a newer phone then they should have to pay all the money towards it. Getting and having a phone is a privilege not a right. Moreover, having the latest phone or gadget is a luxury. I can hear some people saying now, “Just wait until your daughter asks for a phone”. The times change, but not all principles do. Those principles won’t change when my daughter wants a phone.
  7. Meet the Parents… When I was a teenager if you wanted to talk to one of your friends on the phone the only option was to call the land line. This meant that you had to be prepared to possibly speak with their parents on the phone. Although the exchange with their parents was typically brief, you needed to be polite, cordial, respectful, and able to engage in small talk. It went double if I was calling a girl’s house. It was a good thing that will possibly be all but gone by the time my daughter is a teenager and her friends and admirers are calling for her directly.

Closing Thought

The other day I left for work without my phone. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly in the parking lot. I did not turn around and go get it. I did not panic. I did not have the sensation, feeling, or otherwise delusion that I was naked without it. At the age of 35 I’ve had a cell phone for less than a third of my life. For the first 26 years of my life I was able to live a pretty productive, fulfilling, and connected life without one. I want to have the same feeling I had the other day when I’m without my phone thirty years from now. That being said when my phone is around it is too easy to distract me from times and moments of pause and boredom. I am too quick to app surf at stoplights, in waiting rooms, silences while out to eat, and while sitting on the lou. Not that there is an inherent problem with that, I just don’t want it to be my default reaction to fill in the dull moments of my life story that will never make it to print or film because nothing is happening. By the age of 16 many of the current generation of teens and children will have had a cell phone for half their life. They need to be given some boundaries now that will allow for them to own their cell phone in the future, and not be owned by their cell phone.


Does This Generation of Teens Have it Harder Than Predecessors?: A Different Take

It has frequently been said that this generation of young American teenage Christians has it tougher than any other generation before them. Between technology redefining what is considered the public arena, thus shrinking what is truly private, the pressure to perform in school, liberal media with more graphic content on TV, music and movies, there are many who have expressed deep concern of what will become of the present generation of teenage Christians. Earlier and earlier teenagers are being exposed and have access to the morally bankrupt aspects, pornography and drugs to name a few, of our culture and society than ever before.

Those of you who follow my blog know by now that I’m not into stirring the pot of fear (I don’t think it accomplishes much of anything productive or constructive). Allow me to offer you a slightly different take on what all the societal and cultural changes in America means for Christian teenagers.

Many of the same factors that make for culture being difficult for current generation also means that this generation has the greatest potential for creating and cultivating good things.

In his book Culture Making Andy Crouch describes how Christian cultural engagement in the United States has typically been relegated to one of four responses; condemn culture, critique culture, copy culture, or consume culture. The main point of his book is to encourage Christians to understand our cultural mandate from God to create and cultivate. The first two tasks that God gives Adam prior to the Fall, is to name the animals (create), and to work and keep the garden (cultivate). The focal point of the glimpse we get of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation is of a city filled with “the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21.26). After which it says that nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false. Unfortunately a disproportionate amount of teaching and guidance to churched teens is to avoid the unclean, detestable and false over and above aspiring to create and cultivate the glory and honor of the nations.

The advancements in technology in the last twenty years alone have yielded a tremendous amount of creative power into most households in America. If you have a smartphone you have more computing power in the palm of your hand than all of NASA had in 1969 when they launched a man to the moon and back. Just a few days ago I saw a news feature on a 13-year-old girl who attempted to send a Hello Kitty doll into space and back using a high-altitude balloon.

Teenagers can now create and conduct their own music and songs using programs like Garageband. They can create and publish short films and movies on Vimeo and YouTube. There are numerous programs for graphic design. They can take and edit professional quality photographs. They can write and publish poetry, prose, and books. Teenagers have greater access to the rest of the world and it’s problems, and they are being given more opportunities to be a part of the solution. And they still have all of the traditional age-old opportunities to create and cultivate, like drawing, painting, building, and gardening.

It would be a shame if a whole generation of Christian teenagers ended up being behind the curve of everyone else because this generation of parents and youth workers were too busy trying to keep them safe instead of encouraging them to create. Imagine all the good and beautiful things they could produce if we spent more time encouraging and participating in their creative endeavors? We should be encouraging them to create and cultivate things that will one day be considered amongst the glory and honor of the nations. The dangers and pitfalls our culture offers to teenagers are not to be overlooked. However, neither is the plethora of creative opportunities it offers them, the likes of which no generation before them has ever seen.

Can Overtly Sexual Commercials Be A Golden Opportunity With Your Teen?

Watching the commercials during the Super Bowl, or any televised sporting event for that matter can be a perilous activity for a family. Between the commercials for beer, Axe body spray, and GoDaddy, there are plenty of moments to turn the channel momentarily or send the kids to refill the bowl of chips just in case.

Back when I was in college I took a sociology class on Pop Culture. One day we spent an entire day analyzing popular advertising, which to this day was one of the most memorable two hours of any class I ever had in all my years of being educated. Our professor gave a very interactive lecture, meaning he encouraged a lot of dialogue from us on the more subtle messages of advertisements. He displayed numerous clips of print and TV advertising and pointed out some of the more subtle messages that are communicated that we don’t necessarily pick up on, which can also be the most influential because we haven’t been trained to think about it beyond its bad because it’s overtly sexual. In regards to print advertising, he trained us to observe how in clothing and especially fragrance ad women were almost always in postures that suggested she was available sexually and was placed on a lower plane on the page that suggested her submission to the male character. In other words the subtle message of male dominance and female submission to men was more influential than the overt fact that she, or both of them were half naked. More subtle than the fact that all the women look like models in most beer commercials is the subtlety that, one, opposite sex interaction was easier with a beer in hand, and two, if the girl even looked at the guy she not only was attracted to him but wanted him sexually. Some advertisers are savvy enough to poke fun at their own strategy (think the Merc Benz commercial where the guy almost makes a deal with the devil to get everything that goes with the car). If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew numerous guys who went through life thinking in these ways, if a girl even looked at them and gave so much as a polite smile it meant she wanted him, it wouldn’t have been such an impressionable lesson.

Now instead of simply recognizing how women are being objectified I recognize how men in particular are advertised to as if their Neanderthals whose sole purpose in life is to mate and reproduce. By purchasing this product the odds of my happiness, fulfillment, survival, social status or whatever it may be will instantly multiply, is the underlying message. When I was a teenager all I saw was the product and pretty girls who depending on the ad wore next to nothing. It wasn’t until my twenties that I saw more.

Here are some suggestions for parents of young teens who want to help their kids decipher the more subtle messages of advertising. This way they can become more empowered to not fall for the subtle lies used to sell the product. Plus you may have an opportunity to get to know a little bit more about your young teen as you enter into dialogue about something other than what they did or need to do.

  1. Find Out What They’re Thinking. Ask them what they think about what they just saw. Ask them how they think the marketers are trying to convince us to buy the product. Ask them what they think the ad says about the nature of men and women. Ask them what they think the ad says about life, fulfillment, happiness etc. This will also help you get a gauge on whether or not they are thinking concretely or abstractly (Hint: if they already are starting to pick up on the subtle stuff then they are entering abstract thinking).
  2. Make Observations. Instead of making direct comments about what you think is wrong with the commercial, which if you are raising your child to have a moral compass shaped by God’s word will be fairly obvious to them, point out some of the more subtle things. For example instead of pointing out how overtly sexual the ad is, point out how the mood or tone of the individuals change when the product appears or is put into use.
  3. Discuss the Message? Advertisements, whether commercials or print are like art, and portray a worldview; life is good or as it ought to be if ‘x’; there is a problem or life is broken because of ‘y’; life is back the to the way it was meant to be or even better than before because of ‘z’. This doesn’t have to be like work and could be turned into a fun little exercise to connect with your young teen as you watch tv.

3 Remedies for the Common Fear of Teens

Working with teenagers and trying to convince or recruit other people to invest in the lives of teenagers has made me very aware of a problem that is nearing epidemic proportions. There is a lot of ephebiphobia going around and it is rampant. For those not up on their vocabulary words ephebiphobia is the irrational fear and loathing of teenagers. It is also recognized as the “inaccurate exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people”.
You need only talk to any youth pastor, youth worker middle or high school teacher, or parent of an adolescent to discover how widespread ephebiphobia is. I’m treated with near saintlike status when people discover that I’ve worked with pre and early teens for nearly 15 years. “Oh bless you!,” is often the reply I get. “Man, it really takes a special person to work with teenagers,” is another one I hear. The loathing aspect of ephebiphobia is caught in this oft given quip, “I think all kids should be burried (or locked in a closet or shipped off to a deserted island) when they’re twelve and unearthed (or let out or returned to civilization) when they’re 18 (or 25).
I get it. There is a lot of people who just find teenagers difficult, hard to manage, wild and out of control, but is that the norm? If it is the norm should we just be resigned to it being the way things are, and regard them with perpetual suspicision, avoidance, and the lowest possible expectations? As a youth pastor it really bothers me (read REALLY BOTHERS!!!!) that so many people are so negative about teenagers. Allow me to give a few insights that may serve as a rememdy for those who suffer from ephebiphobia?

1. You Were a Teenager Once: It may have been a while but don’t forget what it was like to be a teenager. The teenage/adolescent experience can be summarized by one word… change. Birth to two years old is the only stage of life and development that has more change than the adolescent years. Change is difficult enough as it is for most fully formed adults. It is literally like turning your life upside down as an adolescent. Physical, mental, emotional, social, change change change. Have a little sympathy, no, a little empathy. Everyone expects them to be fully formed adults which by definition they are in the process of becoming but incomplete. When they demonstrate their immaturity (or put another being in process) people resort to treating them like children which again by definition they are not anymore. How frustrating it must be for them if it is for those of us who interact with them?

2. Role of Teenagers in Society: People often feel sorry for today’s youth upon observing today’s social landscape, and all the pressures they face. You’ll often hear the “experts” talk with great tribudation about all the exposure and temptation that the current generation faces that is unparalleled to the previous generations. Could the reason teenagers today face so much temptation and pressure is not because the world is wilder and crazier than ever, but because the world sees adolescents primarily as consumers? Name a product that isn’t primarily targeted at teenagers? Name a product that isn’t marketed by showing how youthful it is? I’m sure you can think of something but it may take a minute. There used to be a day when adolescents and early teens were primarily seen as contributors to society. It wasn’t that long ago that the adolescent stage of life in America was seen as a time to prepare young people for a lifetime of contributing to society and the world. They were pushed and encouraged to cultivate and create. Now that stage of life is treated primarily as a time to prepare them for a lifetime of being customers and consuming things. On opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum you have students who go looking for trouble because they want what they can’t have, or because they have so much they are bored. More and greater things need to be expected of them because they thirst for a life of meaning and significance. All human beings are created to be cultivators and creators and not simply consumers of stuff.

3. Need For an Investment: I recently recruited a new member to my volunteer team. One of the main motivations for getting involved was her unfulfilled desire for someone aside from just her parents to show an interest in her as a developing young woman. The reason why I and others are good with teenagers has nothing to with how cool or hip or knowledgable of youth culture we are. We are good and successful because we care. We care enough to show an interest and make an investment in their lives from our own. I don’t know of a teenager who won’t respond positively to that, or I’ve yet to come across one. Two of the most effective youth ministry volunteers I’ve ever seen were both 50-plus years old, which totally goes against conventional wisdom, but totally makes sense if you ever saw how they loved on and invested in a teenager. They weren’t cool nor hip because and didn’t need to be. They just came alongside of teenagers and provided another safe and constant harbor in the ever changing sea of adolescence. Which allowed for those students to stop being tossed around by the currents of life and just be.