A Christian Perspective on
©2005 Rev. Kimberly Hartfield, B.S.
Adolescence is a tumultuous time in most teenagers’ lives. Almost every teen faces some degree of adolescent insecurity. How a teen perceives the way peers view them as a person can be a critical factor in determining that youth’s self-image. An adolescent’s self-worth is determined by both how the teen views them self and how that youth believes others see or do not see them. If the teen believes they are valued by those closest to the youth, they will likely have a positive self-image. On the other hand, if the teen is criticized frequently by the significant people in their life, the youth may have a poor self-image.
The most significant fact a teen needs to know is that they are valued and loved by the youth’s closest loved ones. If an adolescent feels despised or undervalued by those who are important to the teen, that young person may become depressed and possibly suicidal unless there is some other significant positive influence in the teen’s life. An adolescent never takes it for granted that they are loved.
The young person needs to have some positive verbal feedback from the significant others in their life in order to feel personally adequate. There also needs to be some positive physical touching in the form of familial hugs, kisses, and pats of approval from the teen’s closest loved ones. Without this coveted feedback from the parental-child relationship, the adolescent will often seek emotional and physical needs in a peer relationship, which may lead to early exploration of sexuality and otherwise risky behavior.
This strong desire by the teen to feel appreciated and loved must be fulfilled by the parents or other significant authority figures or the adolescent will inevitably seek approval in their peer and/or dating relationships, sometimes in unwelcome ways. A teen’s desire to fit in with peers may be a factor in current behavior trends and parental rebellion, but if the adolescent has a positive and loving relationship with their parents, then the teen will ultimately feel secure in their individuality and will not easily cave in to unsolicited peer pressure.
Adolescents from Christian homes are often as much at risk as other children in problem areas, including but not limited to rebellion, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Split families, dysfunctional families, single parent, and stepfamilies all contribute to the problems that adolescents must overcome to be adequately functioning adults. These types of homes are not foreign to the Christian community. Ideally the parental-child relationship should model God’s unconditional love and acceptance for His children, as well as His discipline and justice. But realistically, worldly influences and sin on both sides of the relationship distort many of these. When this first and primary relationship is distorted by dysfunctional parents, the children in that family are sometimes left with a gaping void of love in their lives, which they will inevitably attempt to fill with other secondary relationships. The cycle often repeats itself when dysfunctional adolescents become dysfunctional adults.
It is the local churches’ responsibility along with the parents to provide ample resources for the teen’s physical and emotional well being along with their mental and spiritual well fare and continued Christian growth. The teen must ultimately know that the love of Christ is the only love that can give them the unconditional love and acceptance that they seek. Troubled youth need to know that they are not in their world alone and they need not try to walk through it alone. The Church, who is the hands and heart of God, can step in with positive influences and role models. Sunday school teachers, Youth directors, Christian mentors, and plenty of Christian related activities can supplant worldly influences that bide for their time and loyalty.
Activities should be diverse so that they might attract a wide range of teen-agers. Programs should not be primarily musical, study, or activity oriented, but should have a combined emphasis so as not to isolate those who are not inclined in a certain direction. Nor should the activities always be costly, or the youth along with their parents, may feel like outsiders when they can’t afford expensive youth excursions, even though these may be partially funded. It is a wonderful thing when the church gracefully helps those who cannot afford these expenses otherwise, but no one wants to be the one who always needs financial help.
Youth gatherings can be done in the church fellowship hall or local homes without the added expense of eating out. When outside activities are warranted, donations and fund raisers should be collected in advance and pooled, with the Church supplementing any additionally needed funds. All the funds should be consolidated, so that no teen feels they have not contributed enough and stays away from church related activities. Many of these activities can be free or relatively inexpensive, such as visiting a local swimming hole, public parks and zoos, appropriate dollar shows, museums, mission trips, Christian concerts and other Church sponsored events, or donation only events.