The Youth Worker Journal editors (Chap and Steve) did it to us again. Chap Clark and Steve Rabey recently published When Kids Hurt: Help for Adults Navigating The Adolescent Maze. Hurt was such a success, adults needed a practical guide to help them practically implement the different themes described in Hurt. When Kids Hurt is essentially Hurt part 2.
When Kids Hurt has two section. The first section describes the landscape of the Kid’s New Brave World and the second section illustrates the inside lives of today’s teens. In my opinion the greatest feature of this book, were the youth worker experts who shared their wisdom by writing about how to put these themes into practice. I specially like the youth expert who talked about alcohol and adolescents. ; )
Honestly, this whole book is great, so you should buy it and read it– all. I am only going to make 7 highlights:
1. This book acts a wake up call for adults (especially in youth ministry) to realize what our choices as adults have done to kids of our society. Youth pastors have built youth ministries around guilt, performance, works, violence, video games, mega youth rooms, and competitions. Honestly, what does this indirectly communicate to the youth that are apart of our youth ministry? It bugs me when I see youth pastors challenge or dare their students. Think about the enormous spiritual pressure and fear this puts on our students? Youth ministry is not suppose to resemble the TV show: Fear Factor. Unfortunately, our challenges/dares are more about us, than they are about the student spiritual longevity. So I challenge youth pastors to stop challenging their students.
2. Our kids are abandoned and lonely, so therefore we need to give them grace. It may appear students are happy, but deep down, they are miserable. This is why it is so essential to sit down with teens and have an actual conversation. Ask them a lot of questions and attempt to understand where they are at. Always err on the side of grace, even though every part of you wants to tell the student how it is and what they are doing wrong. Even though kids are abandoned and lonely please don’t use Christianese to comfort them. My point: just listen to each student’s story of where they are at— no preaching, but just listening.
3. What to do with our student clusters? We all know students love to gather into their specialized friend groups. Chap/Rabey do a wonderful job categorizing key characteristics of clusters: size, gender, timing, loyalty & commitment, and rules and norms (71). This is why smaller group in our youth ministries is huge!! If our youth ministries could establish and align our student small groups or our small youth ministry to these traits, it would be amazing. Why? Cluster give students a sense of security, belonging, and meaning. Although these cluster are more organic, than pre-determined. What if youth ministries took on the multiple identities of the certain clusters that were attending our youth ministry?
4. The realities about school and students. Clark and Rabey argue that: Students say respect must be earned. Students care about grades, but not necessarily about learning. Most students cheat. Students are anxious about school. (87-88) I like how Clark/Rabey indicate many students are want to find the easy way out and try to scam the educational system.
5. The cost of competition. Why is it so tempting to use competition in our youth ministries? Why do we try to get the coolest professional athletic player to come speak to our youth group? Students who play sports in high school are literally sucked into this performance-competition based vortex. Some students do sports not because they like it, but because their parents make them do it. Sports become all about winning, which means the student many lose something if the student is focused on winning (117). Clark/Rabey state: From the time they hear PLAY BALL! they know that they had better come through and perform, even if they are only playing for fun. (117)
6. Sex, stress, and Smirnoff vodka. “Adolescent sexuality is connected more to a desire for relational connection and a safe place than to a physical activity of the body” (127). It is imperative we remind the young of our culture that love matters, that people are not objects or playthings, and that our bodies and our hearts cannot be separated. I highly recommend Kara Powell and Jim Hancock book: GoodSex.
Our kids are more stressed out than ever. Clark/Rabey remind us that the stress of success, home, and relationship are the key stressors in students lives (135). These pressures and stressors will not only overwhelm all students, but have an extreme impact on their emotional equilibrium.
Not only are kids sexing and stressing, they are also drinking. As youth pastors we need to shift our focus from the alcohol to the communal experience the teens are seeking to share. Partying is more about the communal experience than it is really about getting wasted. Why do party exist? Party exist because of the pseudo community and unity it brings.
7. Youth pastors need to study youth culture! We need to study and live in their world. In seminary, Chap Clark must us hang out at the mall for 4 hours three days a week to observe the teens interaction. I learned so much. The Youth Specialties blog does a nice overview of current youth culture trends. Also Mike King is an expert on understanding adolescent development.
This book offers great insight on how to handle tough topics that are transpiring in all of youth ministries.