I just came from my PCM and I have to say that my heart is broken. I work at By the Hand and tonight we had about eight volunteers for over 50 teens. We were running around like crazy people. I love these girls, but tonight I did not like them very much. I am so frustrated with volunteers! Last semester we had about seven volunteers from Moody. This year I’m the only one who comes on Thursdays. And it got me thinking…
Why do we assume that teenagers are just okay? I feel that, for the most part, ministry volunteers would rather work with the younger kids because it’s easier and they feel they’ll make a bigger impact that way. Teenagers are avoided. And maybe it’s because they’re kind of scary (I’m often scared by them). However, maybe we get our ideas and assumptions from somewhere other than experience.
The more I’ve thought about it the more I think that our idea of who teenagers are and what they need has come from media. TV shows made by Disney and Nickelodeon show teens and preteens that are fairly self-sufficient. There is no higher authority figure, or if there is they are fools who need to be led by the protagonist of the show. They are strong and they don’t need or want the help of adults. Look at iCarly. Carly lives with her idiot older brother and has her own web show. She hosts it with her two best friends and they do crazy things and get away with it, cause they’re “cool.” Who knows where her parents are? Who knows where the principal or teachers are? There aren’t any good role models in that show. It’s just a bunch of kids living on their own and doing stupid stuff.
Kids who watch these programs (or the books that are just like them) convince themselves that this is the ideal way to be. They put on facades that indicate that they don’t older mentors too. I’ve seen it in the girls that I work with and I’ve seen it with my two younger sisters. They pretend like they don’t care what you say or do. They’re fine. They’re independent and cool.
Alternatively, we see these shows and we think the same thing. Or we see the facade and take it at face value. Teenagers need just as much love as the little kids do, possibly more. They need support as they move through one of the most tumultuous times of their lives and we don’t give it to them because we think that they are like the teens we see everywhere: independent, self-sufficient, and completely in control. We’ve bought the lie that teens can take care of themselves and are tough enough to handle everything on their own.