Kids these days.
They're self-absorbed, ignorant, weak, uninformed, and will bring about the end of our civilization.
It's the mantra set on repeat from today's adults.
As it was from adults when I was kid.
And when those adults were kids.
If you're not used to spending time with them, teenagers will drive you crazy. And as is the human tendency, it's easy to push aside those things that annoy us and declare them a detriment to whatever it is we happen to find important at that time.
But today's kids — who are invariably "on your lawn" — are not going to be "the end of us." If you look closely and spend time with them one-on-one, you'll come to realize that they're not any more likely to bring about the Apocalypse than you were at that age. In fact, you might just come away inspired and with hope for our future.
The Wife and I have been blessed beyond description to have spent the last 20 years or so working with youth — from being involved with The House, Inc. (one of the most innovative youth programs in the United States) to working with church groups to coaching middle and high school sports.
In that time, God has taught us how to effectively minister to the lives of youth and their families and given us a better, healthier perspective on teenagers.
And what we've learned is that kids still want to serve their community, still want to be their best, and still care about each other:
● I just wrapped up my eighth year of coaching high school football. Win or lose, those boys had a powerful bond — they found ways to support and care for their brothers, sought time together even away from the field, and cherished the family the team provided that perhaps they didn't experience at home. They would amaze us coaches daily with their love and support for each other.
● Being plugged into the high school, we've seen student leaders creating programs — on their own — to feed the homeless, provide housewares for the needy, create scholarships for fellow students in tough financial straits, and supply blankets and warm clothes for anyone who could use them.
● Every week, we open our home to senior high students for Bible studies. And every week, our house is filled with unchurched teenagers seeking to spend time together, to learn about who God is, and to find ways to change their world. They even adopted the motto/hashtag #ChangeStartsHere.
● And it's not just high schoolers — even the obnoxious junior high students are getting in on the action. Every Wednesday, our church's youth facility is filled with sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students. They're not just there for the games and the food — they're looking for ways to serve and asking questions about a world (and a God) that is WAY bigger than they are.
You see, the key is: Don't give up on them. That's much easier to do if you regularly remind yourself of what it's like to be 14, 15, 16, 17 years old. Yes, there are more distractions and ways to get in trouble today than there were when you were a kid. But the makeup of a teenager is the same.
Remember being awkward? That's still a thing.
Remember not having confidence (though we all faked it when we could)? That's still a thing, too.
Remember teenage love and heartbreak? Yep, still a thing.
Remember the smells, feelings, pain of puberty? Still happening.
Remember trying out for teams ... and not making it? Or missing an assignment? Or forgetting about a test? Or missing your ride?
Remember wondering how the people you cared about most would react when they found out about your latest screw-up in what seemed like an endless string of failures?
Yeah, the youth in your community experience that, too.
If you can remember what that's like, you'll be able to impact a life or two. When you do, your perspective will be altered permanently — and it's usually a needed change in perspective that gives us hope.
Hope does not disappoint — and that's something to be thankful for.