Working With Teenagers

Movie Night MayLast weekend we had a Movie Night scheduled. It had been pretty heavily promoted over the last month, and we had a handful of teens who had committed to showing up. Verbal commitments, Facebook invites responded to with “Yes”, the whole nine yards. Movie starts at 7 with pre-movie trivia (just like in the theaters!) running for about an hour beforehand. Normally these movie nights are decently attended (from a numbers standpoint) and a couple of times in the discussion after the film, the group has had a few things thrown at them about the movie that genuinely makes them think about their own faith.

Well, Saturday night rolled around and so did 7:00. Then 7:05. By 7:15 no one was still there, and no one had texted or called me asking if we were still having the movie night and if they could come late (happens almost every time we have a movie night). So I went home. And still no one showed or asked if it was still happening.

Now, since I had friends in town for the weekend it was not a total loss. I got to spend a few hours with them that I would not have had the chance to do otherwise. But I got to thinking. I put a lot of time and effort into this particular Movie Night compared to the other ones we have run. A part of me was hurt that the effort on my part was for naught. Part of me was sad that no one came. But mostly I think part of me was frustrated that the handful of teens who had committed to coming simply didn’t show up. Even in conversation the next morning at Sunday School, one of those positive “Yes” answers on Facebook realized he had forgotten that he had said he would come. Another teen blamed his mom for not remembering on time. Yet another positive Facebook reply said he remembered… at 8:30. And he had helped film the announcements that told of this night at least twice.

I really had to remind myself that we are working with teenagers.

I have to remind myself of this all the time. We work with adolescents. Long-range thinking is not typically their strong suit. Commitment has not been taught in our Internet age of instant gratification. And in part, that is okay. Teens are not supposed to be fully-developed, responsible adults. They are supposed to forget things. They are expected to instinctively blame others for their forgetfulness or their shortcomings. They are still very much children. Sometimes I forget that. I think that sometimes we all forget that. There are times when adolescents show a maturity that belies their years. And we can get spoiled by that, expecting them to behave and respond like adults.

Don’t forget in your own ministry that you are working with adolescents. It’s okay for them to act like kids. They still are. But don’t let them slide by in that. Help teach them to commit, to let their yes be yes and their no be no. Help them to learn responsibility so that when they are adults, they won’t still behave like teenagers.