Let’s finish addressing the needs/dangers in teenagers’ lives that the year 2020 has either magnified or revealed that won’t be going away very swiftly in 2021. Let me also include some ideas of how you as a parent, pastor, or youth director can help:
Danger: Deteriorated relationships with family. These teens have been cooped up all year with siblings they don’t like a whole lot. There may be an increase of yelling in the home between parents and children. Some teens may not talk about it, but they may be quarantined with a parent who is abusive.
Help: Succinct solution: urge the teens to reach out. If a relationship with a sibling is soured, reach out to parents about the issue. If a relationship with a parent has soured, reach out to your pastor for situation-specific advice to help respond respectfully and lovingly to your parents. If there is abuse, definitely reach out to a trusted adult like your pastor. Have teenagers spice up the monotony by simply making ways to spend time with other people. But reach out! Many teens expect others to reach out to them first; urge teenagers not to wait for others to reach out to them but to initiate communication.
Danger: Questioning what God is doing in circumstances. Adults do this a lot. Teens do it, too. They just are often much quieter about it because they might get in trouble for expressing the doubts that adults are allowed to air out loud.
Help: First, teach them to pray (Phil. 4:6). If God hears and cares (which He does), then prayer is essential! Second, teach them the character of God from the Bible. Job’s friends were no help to Job because they didn’t understand what God was doing in Job’s difficult circumstances. Teach young people the Scriptures that demonstrate the goodness, fairness, justice, love, and power of God.
Danger: Culture’s pressure to accept blatant sin as normal. Just this week, my wife got a magazine from Shutterfly with a homosexual couple kissing in it. TV shows are presenting every kind of sexual perversion as okay. Anger, stealing, and destruction of property is presented as moral…so long as it’s in the name of social justice.
Help: Show teenagers that the Bible has an answer for every issue that culture can create (Ps. 119:104). Confront them with the foolishness of choosing “what I like” over what the Bible clearly says is best. Teenagers must develop biblical discernment, so help them understand Philippians 4:8’s filter through which every idea or issue must be run. After all, God’s way will always be the best way (Psalm 119:35).
Danger: Response to those who don’t think like you. How do you treat someone who mocks you for what you believe? Some of your teenagers are getting treated pretty brutally for what they believe, and, as our nation becomes more and more divided, the truth is liked less and less.
Help: The truth must be spoken, no matter how inconvenient. But it must be spoken with a loving heart (Eph. 4:15). While the Bible does not require us to spend quality time with people who are harsh and cruel to us (Pro. 22:24), our responses must mirror Jesus’ response, which was always truth enveloped with love (Matt. 5:44).
Danger: Uncertainty. Teens want to know: Will I get to do the normal senior year stuff? Will I get to finish sports this year? Will college still be on when I graduate? Will I have to wear a mask for the rest of my life? Will whoever is president destroy my life? Will I be able to get a job? These are real questions that teenagers wonder, and the uncertainty is killing some of them.
Help: Point teenagers struggling with the uncertainties of the future to Matthew 6:25-34. Remind them that God knows your needs (Matt. 6:31-32) and that worry will change absolutely nothing (Matt. 6:27). So, trust God (Matt. 6:30)! If God cares about grass, birds, and wildflowers, then He sure as shootin’ cares about the people that He has made in His image and redeemed with His blood (Matt. 6:26). Remind teenagers that God will work things out (1) in His own way and (2) in His own timing. Let God be God, and you focus on seeking His will and obeying in everything that you know to do (Matt. 6:33).