I often hear adults say that teenagers are much worse today than they were “back in my day.” They go on to use examples of the celebrity teens, drug and alcohol issues, disrespect, bullying, etc. While much of those issues are nothing to ignore, I have a different perspective. Let me explain with a couple recent examples.
Tonight, as I arrived home and was getting out of my car, a couple teenage guys came walking up, in the middle of a snowstorm, and they asked if they could shovel my driveway. Seriously? Shovel a random person’s driveway? This doesn’t happen in New England! Of course, I said yes. Not only did I not want to do it myself, but I didn’t want to have them miss out on an opportunity to serve someone. I was grateful, and I did pay them a bit. Their response to the money told me immediately that they were not expecting payment. They were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. And as I sit here writing this blog, I hear them shoveling our sidewalk as well. I don’t know these boys, but I know they could be doing a number of other things tonight, but they chose to serve others in our neighborhood.
On New Year’s Eve, we had our usual overnighter with the youth group. At midnight, we gathered the students together for a time of worship through music and teaching (a great way to start out the new year). Immediately following that, we allowed the students to pray about what God wanted to do in their lives. One particular group of ninth-grade boys got together on their own. As I sat to the side, watching them, I could not help but have a big smile both inside and out. Instead of doing a number of other things on this night that could have been more “fun,” they came together, and they prayed. Wow! Across the room, another group — this time, it was high school girls — gathered around a friend who was going through a tough time. They listened to her and prayed for her.
I could seriously go on and on about our own students, too. It makes me so excited every time I think about how they willingly go to serve others on mission trips, handing out food to the poor on Thanksgiving eve, and begging me to plan other service opportunities. They are consistently inviting their friends to join them at church, youth group, and these various service projects. This is not because of anything I do, for sure. Instead, it is because they know that life is more than just doing the “worldly” thing. It is about loving God and loving others. And they are doing it over and over.
Maybe when you look around, you see the teen culture going down the tubes. Maybe you see teenagers who are falling apart, making wrong choices, and throwing their lives away. I do not doubt that is happening. In fact, I know it is. Those things are one of the big reasons I do what I do in order to help students and their families.
In the midst of all the calamity, however, there are many teens who get it. They have realized that life is not all about the drugs, alcohol, sex, and everything else that only leads to emptiness. They know there is more. Many of those students go to our youth group. And to all you youth workers out there, many go to your church’s youth group, too. So, from one youth pastor to another — thank you! Thank you for all you do to make a difference in the world.
For everyone else, please take this as a reminder that not all teens are throwing their lives away. Sure, many are, but there are a ton of them who understand what life is all about, and they are doing something about it. Praise God for them, and pray that they make an impact on the other teens who witness their life-choices.