Many parents and youth workers think that their teens are too complex or “hard to crack”. Over the last 12 years, I have probably spent thousands of hours talking to teenagers. From van/bus trips to personal discussions, I have come to the conclusion that teens are not as difficult as they are made out to be. Here are a few things that Every Teen Really Wants.
1. Your Attention
If you are willing to be close and observant, you will find this is their deepest longing. They want attention. They want to be noticed. They want someone else to think/know that they are somebody too. They may be loud, proud, obnoxious, smart aleck and rude. But inside those imperfections is an insecure teen that just wants someone to see they exist.
Teens will sometimes say and do things they shouldn’t, just to give someone an opportunity to lend them some attention. Youth workers, parents, teachers… Teens succeed with good attention. We have to make sure we see this need and then show good attention. Teens will settle for bad attention. If they have to rebel, ruin and respond to get attention, they will. Teens will not survive with no attention. No attention at all from YP, teachers, parents, makes a teen feel invisible and isolated.
Whether it’s that teen in the back, quiet and reserved or that teen loud and proud in the front. Give them what they are seeking. Your Attention.
2. Your Affection
I know in today’s climate, youth workers must be careful here. However, I feel like teenagers crave our affection. They want to be loved. Some maybe because there is little to no affection at home, others because they have been shown a fractured version of affection and desire a different dose. Some have a very supportive and affectionate home and just love being loved. The reason so many teens chase dating relationships in high school is because of a desire for affection and love. Many of these result in broken hearts and lives. This is not the affection they dreamt of and definitely not what teenagers need. Many are suicidal, self harming and depressed.
Youth Workers, decide to love your teens. Don’t just tell them, show them. In youth ministry, time is the best affection you can give. Obviously, male workers should spend time with the young men and lady workers with the young ladies. But time is the foundation for a strong spiritual relationship. Many teens may not return your affection. They may ignore, stay distant and even decline your affection for them. Remember, it is not for you, it is for them. Sometimes, just knowing you care means more than anything to them.
Whether it’s that teen girl who dyes her hair every 2 weeks, that boy who flirts with every girl in the group or that teen who never smiles. Give them what they are seeking. Your Affection.
3. Your Affirmation
Just as we all want to be seen and loved, we all are born with a desire to please others. Throughout my youth ministry I have found that teenagers want to be appreciated. They want the YP‘s affirmation. They will often tell of a good deed or a soul won to Christ, yes to share the good news, but also to attain affirmation from the Youth Workers. They want to be accepted and appreciated in their peer group and by the leadership. Many will be asked to do things never expected to attain this affirmation from their peers. Some will NEVER attain it.
We as youth workers must make sure we are quicker to affirm than to offend. Let us be the ones who clap and praise the little things that matter to Christ, but may not matter to this world.
Let your teens know how proud you are of them. How they have done well. How they exceeded expectation. How they pleased Christ. There are trophy presentations in all sports, except the Christian life. However, an acknowledgement of spiritual growth, service, separation and even surrender are such a blessing to a teen taming temptation to try to live for Christ.
Let us be “cheerleaders for Christ” who applaud and affirm our teens when they succeed.
Whether it be that teen who tells you everything they do or that teen who is just starting in the group and growing each week. Give them what they are seeking. Your Affirmation.
Attention. Affection and Affirmation is exactly what EVERY teenager wants. Let’s be that need to our teens.