Hanging out with teens

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Last night I hung out with a bunch of teenagers.

I wouldn’t say it was my most meaningful interaction with high school students. There was a lot more chicken-fighting in the above-ground pool than deep and meaningful conversation, but sometimes the fun is just as purposeful.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about teenagers lately. I recently listened to a podcast about teens, young adults and the church (you may listen to it here: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/discourse-archive/entry/15/19453).

The podcast features interviews with David Kinnaman and Jeff Myers.

Kinnaman has researched why young adults leave the church, and Myers has researched why they stay. The thing that I found jaw-dropping in the interview is that Myers’ research indicated that the #1 reason teens continue in their faith after high school is whether they had a mentor during their high school years. This came up as more significant than whether the teens grew up with Christian parents.

I ordered the book that expands upon the research so I can learn more. But the bottom line is that teens obviously benefit from mentors. The research I’ve mentioned has to do with spiritual matters, but we know that excellent organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters (www.bbbs.org) can share the merits of mentoring across all aspects of a teen’s life. 

However, when I think of adults mentoring teens, I can’t help but consider how many adults find themselves nervous about reaching out to a teen. They wonder things like, “Won’t they think I’m uncool?” or “Why would they want to hang out with me?”

Maybe they won’t consider you super cool. And maybe not all teens would like to hang out with you. But some would—very much!

In fact, the high school girls I chatted with last night all have mentors through Joy El Generation’s 4.12 Leadership Training Program (http://joyelgeneration.org/about-412-ltp/4-12-leadership-training-program). And the teens and adults thoroughly enjoy spending time together.

“She loves me!” one shy young teen said about her mentor as she smiled and hopped.

“My mentor is so cool!” another explained. “I mean, she got me an iPod for Christmas!” (I laughed at this.) “But it’s much better than that,” she explained. “We walk and talk. She really gets me!”

So, even if you’re not yet brave enough to join in chicken fights (I’m not!), hang around anyway. Young people are worth it.