Teenagers can be about as stable as Homer Simpson running a nuclear reactor. The little red light could go off at any time accompanied by wailing sirens. Here a a few tips for staying out of trouble with your teens.
1. Keep your promises
Promises are important to teens. They are even more important if they come from you. Teens live in a world of broken promises including divorce, fake friends, sleazy boy/girl friends, etc. If you promise to be at game, be there. If you promises to take them some where, go there. If you break a promise, own it and apologize. Keep your promises because broken promises are the hardest thing to mend.
2. Don’t call them out publicly
A teenager’s phone goes off in youth. You have two choices, rebuke him/her or make a joke. Make the joke. Why? Because a public rebuke is not only the quickest way to get you in trouble with not only that teen, but all their friends as well. YM is all about relationships. Sometimes you can get caught up with rules or become self-righteous and feel like spouting off, don’t, it will cost you. A simple rule to keep in mind is praise in public, correct in private. This will save you some relational grief.
3. Don’t just jump in, look for permission first
Teens are tribal. You need permission from the tribe or tribal leader to
- Sit at their lunch table
- Talk to their friends
- Invite their friends to things
- Take about their culture (like you know it)
- To act like them (to a degree)
- To share stories about them (in a message)
Ok, the last one is a bit of exaggeration, but not by much. At least this how my 17 year old daughter made me feel. It’s a dance. You have to seek permission to join the dance. To just jump in makes the tribe cranky. Don’t do it or you’ll find yourself in a big, black pot of boiling water or on one of those giant skewers Johnny Depp found himself on in Pirates of the Caribbean. Look for the nod, the wave, the opening to be a part
4. Don’t leave them out, consult with them
Yes, I said consult them. Teens feel powerless most of the time. Parents, teachers, and youth pastors just plan stuff and don’t bother to say anything to the teenager except “Show up” Letting students be part of the process gives power back to a teen to make decisions. Start a leadership team and let students own the youth program. They will thanks you for it later.
5. Don’t talk down to them If you want to cause strife, just talk down to a teen like they are stupid or a little kid. At times, youth pastors can sound sarcastic or condescending, to be cool. You should always try to elevate the conversation, to help students understand that you believe they have something to contribute. Whether you are speaking casually or from the pulpit, you should always respect your audience. They are not as:
- dumb as we think
- apathetic as we think
- unloving as we think
Don’t assume anything. Err on he side of caution and give them the benefit of the doubt. Whether it is in casual conversation or from the pulpit, we may be the authority but we don’t always have to prove it.