Why in the world am I writing a letter to teenagers? Because I think I’m pretty safe in lumping all teenagers together on this one and I think they all need to hear this. So listen up, teens:
From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry for what this culture that my generation has built is trying to sell you. I’m sorry for how we see you. I’m sorry what we try to make you. And I’m sorry that I didn’t say this sooner.
About seven years ago, just a few months after Eric and I got married, we started in teen ministry at our church. I was only 24 years old and even then at that young age I was intimidated. I mean, I didn’t even fit in with teens when I was a teenager, what in the world was I going to do now?
Teens are scary, right? They are sooo standoffish and they’re going to think I’m lame. I have nothing in common with them and this is going to be a waste of my time.
My fears were, in my mind at the time, completely legitimate, but after just the very first time I helped at a youth event I realized just how wrong I was and how silly my reservations were. I have not ever been so accepted, even into adult cirlcles, as immediately and wholly as I was by the teens. They were loving, and open, and honest, and completely wonderful. And the best thing is, although the faces in our youth group have changed since then, the teens haven’t. They are still completely awesome.
Why does this even matter? Why am I even sharing this? Because as I sat back and thought about my time in teen ministry, which has been a huge part of my and my husband’s life since we got married, I realized that I was not the only one who was wrong about you. We all are. Our culture sells us an image of a skulking, depressed teen who will only talk to their friends or of a lazy kid who only plays games or posts on Instagram and who sighs and rolls his or her eyes when an adult tries to talk to them. You’re just kids who don’t know anything but think they know everything and who shirk responsibility and have no respect for others.
This image is not just wrong, it’s dangerous.
You see, teens, the devil wants nothing more from you than to believe these same lies. That you are lazy, selfish, apathetic, and greedy. That you are not good enough. That you have nothing of value to give. Why do I think this? Because I know how much value God puts on teens. God knows that you are smart, kind, compassionate, and full of life. God used teens in big ways all throughout the Bible. David? Super young when he fought Goliath. Mary? Accounts say she was likey 14 or 15 when she told God that she was willing to be the mother to His son. And you wanna know some other cool people who were teenagers? The disciples. I read an account that said that the disciples were all most likely teenagers when they were called. It said, “In Jewish tradition, a young man began following a rabbi between the ages of 12-30, usually under the age of 20.” So Jesus himself likely chose teenagers to be His disciples and to leave them with the great responsibility of spreading the message of salvation through the whole world. And besides Judas, they heeded the call and rose to the occasion.
This is crucial, in my opinion, because it shows that teenagers have a very special place within the kingdom. That the time for you to do the work is now. All too often the mindset of young believers is that they will get to it when they are adults. They will start reading the Bible when they’re older. They will figure out their ministry later. The devil tells them that they have so much time that they can just wait. But what you need to realize is that you have so much to offer, right now, that all too often us adults just don’t. As much as I hate to admit it, the older you get the more set in your ways you become. You tend to get more hard-hearted and become a casualty of comfort and routine. But YOU, you are so different.
YOU have endless passion for what you believe in, you have a sense of adventure and an excitement about life that hasn’t been dulled yet, you have endless compassion and a fresh set of eyes, you still believe things can get better. You have the ability to love people no matter what. You are creative, and intelligent, and useful beyond what you know.
The devil works hard to make you believe that you are useless, that people will think you’re weird, he tries to make you too self-conscious to function. He tries to tell you that how you spend your time now is unimportant and that you’ll have plenty of time once you’re an adult to get it together and help people and make a difference.
He tells you this so that you don’t see that the time is now. That you have all the heart and bravery and compassion to change the world right now. I say you tell the devil where to shove that nonsense and be fearless in seeking and serving Jesus. We can’t always help everyone, but we can all help someone. Life is shorter than it seems right now so I pray that any teen who is reading this feels a pull on their heart to see their potential. You are enough, exactly as you are, and God wants to use you to help others as you grow in your walk with Him.
You guys are awesome, and you need to know that.
I love that Paul’s letters to young Timothy reinforces this truth that young people are far more valuable to the kingdom than what we give you credit for.
It’s no secret that I adore teen ministry. It is not only the most fun ministry (TRUTH) but truly, to get to meet these amazing young people and make bonds with them has been a huge blessing to me and these kids have changed me for the better. It’s amazing what teens can teach you. About life, about yourself, about God. They have often, even if they don’t know it, inspired me to see the world in a different way. In a less cynical way, in a way that is inclusive and loving. The thing I love most about teenagers is the questions they ask, whether they are believers or not. They are not afraid to not have all the answers and are so capable of thinking outside of the box. My faith has grown a lot based on the questions teens ask me. Of course, I only want to give truthful answers so it’s meant a lot of prayer, seeking scripture, and seeking advise from my own mentors to get them the answers they need.
I’m not in the habit of “pushing” my faith on anyone. But if you’ve read this and would like to know more, or just have questions or doubts that you just can’t shake and want to talk about it, feel free to comment here or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I of course don’t have all the answers but I will do what I can to make sure you get them.