Why Are Teens Saying, "You Lost Me"?

I am reading a book entitled, "You Lost Me", by David Kinnaman.  Out of this exhaustive research has come many findings on the youth culture today. Let me detail one of them as it relates to The Coming Teen Decade. That period of time in a century that only comes once. We will enter into this Teen Decade in about three months or less. It begins in 2013 and ends in 2019. Seven years of teens. Seven years to emphasize our ministry to teens.

Reading the section of the Kinnaman text about how students are being misunderstood, my eyes are opened to how much Christian adults add to the distance between teens and the faith of the church. Although students may be hyper and easily distracted, bored with church and their youth group, reckless and foolish, or even dis-respectful and self-centered, maybe there are greater reasons for this than the students to blame.

Let me ask you a few questions:

-What have we done to use their energy in a productive way? To channel this excitement toward event planning and play time in a youth ministry. Every student wants to play. We have a 'Play Deprivation' in our society. Let's not have one in the church.

-Could their boredom be caused by a lack of preparation on our part as leaders?

-Why not capture the risk-taking courage of a teen today and give them an edgy assignment like doing some interviews at a mall about faith and religion? Or, sending them on a nature hike to read Psalms?

-Have you ever been dis-appointed by a person in authority? Especially a person of spiritual leadership. There is a cause for this lack of respect for authority. It is usually mis-guided and mis-behaved leaders.

These are the top issues Kinnaman details. My advice? Two things:
  1. Focus on the ways that we add to the boredom or the dis-respect and the immaturity of a generation younger than us. Our response to them is critical. When a 14 year old is acting like a 14 year old, don't ask them to grow up. They are not grown up. Play with them. Of course, there are times when we expect a 14 year old to listen and to pay attention. But, could our response be less critical and more understanding. Do you remember when you were 14?
  2. Be quick to love and not quick to judge. Laugh along with them. Play with them. Every study that I have read about America includes our lack of play and leisure. We are too stressed. We are driven to produce. Love is better than judgment.
Relax. Chill. Remove 'the log in your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to remove the speck in your brother's eye.' Some great advice from Christ in Matthew 7.5.

If we want to truly reach and to lead The Coming Teen Decade, we must engage them and not dis-engage them. Our attitude may have more to do with that than any behavior issues of theirs.