Transforming Teens

Cultivating Sensitive Hearts for God

Have you ever experienced the frustration of wanting someone to change his spiritual direction more than the individual himself desired to change? Maybe it’s a junior higher in your youth group who just doesn’t know when to be serious, a senior high girl who craves all the wrong attention, or maybe it’s a teen who is just plain apathetic toward biblical truth. There have been times when I put my best efforts into a Bible lesson that I knew would convince a certain individual to change, only to discover in the middle of my awesome study that they were sleeping on the back row!

Don’t you just wish you could flip a switch on the back of their heads that would instantly change their attitude or behavior?

If we’re not careful, in our admirable attempts to see teens experience growth, we can shortcut real change for reluctant conformity. To further complicate matters, the teen years represent a period of time when young adults are most easily influenced, and they are constantly bombarded with cultural lies and false realities. Here’s my point: the world screams for their conformity, and if you choose to get in a shouting match with culture…you lose.

Jesus offers a much better alternative: transformation. Real, lasting change that begins in the mind and heart. Now, although we cannot mandate transformation, we can passionately work to create the optimal conditions for transformation. Here’s how we do this:

Understand the Factors of Influence

What are primary factors of influence among today’s teens? Friendships, social media, entertainment media, and “generational momentum.” Are all these negative? No, not necessarily. In fact, some of these factors can be positive. Are all of these powerfully influential? Yes, incredibly.

You cannot afford to be a bystander as your teen navigates these pressures of influence. Get involved and get informed. You have to help them understand what they are up against and help to create an environment conducive to transformation.

Shift the Focus of Importance

I mentioned “generational momentum” in the previous point. What does this mean? I recently heard a TED Talk by the trends manager of YouTube, Kevin Allocca. It’s his job to try to understand what makes certain web videos go viral. During his talk he spoke about how certain videos gain huge traction among teens, gaining millions of views in a short amount of time; meanwhile, adults are scratching their heads because they just don’t get it. He said, “[Teens] love to talk about and be a part of things. It doesn’t actually matter if someone has declared it good or not, because it just became a part of the cultural conversation.” That’s generational momentum.

A prime example of this was the viral rap video “Gangnam Style” by a Korean rapper named “PSY.” If you’ve seen the video, you know what I’m talking about. It makes ZERO sense.

One FOX News opinion writer wrote this critique of Gangnam: “If the Blues and Soul spoke to a people in pain, struggling to find love and freedom; and if Rock n’ Roll spoke to a generation ready for rebellion, then Gangnam Style speaks to a generation ready for nothing—a psychological vacuum, a flight from reality, a fear of being a human being with the capacity to feel for oneself and others, with ideas and ideals that really, truly matter. I know, I know: People will say I am making too much of a hit song. People will say it means nothing that people will have watched Gangnam Style one billion times by Christmas. That’s my point: It means exactly that—nothing. And it is the most popular song in history.”1

In their search for fun or perhaps the avoidance of responsibility, many teens are content to settle for meaningless noise to fill the empty void in their lives.

Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” We must help to shift the focus of our teens from meaningless vanity to the significant eternal. Here are some practical ways that we can accomplish this:

We must guard them from evil. We must be vigilant for them and aware of the danger.

We must ground them in truth. The number one reason teens leave church after graduation is that they don’t know what they believe. Teach the truth. Live the truth.

We must give them stability. The home must be a refuge of love and acceptance. This takes a mom and dad passionately working together, investing in their teen.

We must guide them in their daily living. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Do you get the picture? Your teenagers need your ongoing instruction to help them navigate the critical decisions of life.

Train for the Future

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If your method of change is merely conformation, you’ll never be able to create enough rules to combat a corrupt culture. Even if you did, many of the rules would become irrelevant with time. Biblical principles, however, are timeless. They are future-proof. It really doesn’t matter what new trend or technology is introduced in the years to come, if you teach biblical principles, they will always be relevant.

How are you doing in providing an environment of transformation? Let’s do our best to instruct teens to walk in truth and then help them see the significance in doing so. Let’s expose the lies of culture and be on guard for potential pitfalls. Then, let’s step back and give God the glory for His ability to transform lives.

1. impact-gangnam-style/

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