You don't have to work with young people long to realize that each ministry opportunity and relationship is very different - no two teenagers are alike! BUT, although each individual student is completely unique, and no two situations are the same, there ARE some common needs that I think all young people have.
Here are three things I think every teenager needs:
THE NEED TO BE KNOWN
Deep inside all of us is the desire for people to know us. Have you ever called a teenager by name and caught that look on their face that betrays - if only for a second - how happy it made them that you remembered who they were? Young people want someone older, someone that they look up to, to see them and to know them. Log on to Facebook and start scrolling through your news feed and tell me whether or not you see students crying out to someone, anyone, saying "here I am!" Teenagers need to be known.
THE NEED TO BELONG
Not only do young people want someone to know them, they also want to feel like they are part of a group to which they belong. Unfortunately, the default place of belonging - the family - isn't what it once was. There is a generation of teenagers before us who are dying - all too often in a literal sense - to be accepted and welcomed in by their peers and caring adults. There are plenty of negative alternatives of belonging available in the world - from gangs to unhealthy peer relationship circles - and the church and our youth ministries should be a place of refuge and belonging for teenagers.
THE NEED TO HAVE A PURPOSE
Teenagers need to be known, they need to have a community to which they belong, but that's not all - they also need to know that they have a purpose. Have you noticed the rise in interest in "causes" in the last 5-10 years? Teenagers will attach and detach themselves from causes like fashion. I believe that deep inside the heart of each young person is a hunger for adventure and a desire to make a difference in this crazy messed-up world. Again, there are so many unhealthy purposes students can attach themselves to, and it's up to us to point them toward not just the most fashionable cause of the moment, but to the calling that God has placed on every single one of their lives!
Again, these are just a few things that are rattling around my head. What else do you think every teenager needs? What would you add to the list? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
- Tim B.