“I have a new philosophy. There’s just no point. There’s no purpose to anything. So I might as well make things count when I’m young. Enjoy myself while I can. That kind of thing.”
The young woman who said these words to me went on to say, “I mean, Christians would say the purpose of life is to ‘Advance the Gospel.’ (She has obviously heard those words several times before). And I’m a Christian still…sort of. But that kind of purpose sounds boring to me.”
This 16 year-old was counting down the days till school ended. She was ready for the summer. And I was more than concerned about her summer. More than concerned about her, actually, in general. As Melissa has told our staff for years, the kids who we need to worry about the most are the kids who don’t believe that their lives matter. It’s not the ones who are angry so much as the ones who are just nothing. They don’t feel anything and don’t want to feel anything. The ones who don’t know purpose.
My fear for this girl’s summer is that she could find a false sense of purpose in some really bad choices. She could end up making some decisions that feel good and thrilling and lead to a lot of regrets. My hope for her summer is entirely different—and much of what we teach on when we speak to parents of teenagers.
Adolescents need to EXPERIENCE that their lives matter. Not just hear that they matter or read that they do in Scripture. They need to experience it. Children do, too. But teenagers are asking bigger questions. They’re moving from concrete to abstract thought. They are aware of their struggles and sin at a whole new level, even if they’re not saying it out loud. An overwhelming amount of research says that one of the biggest elevators of self-esteem is giving. Again, these kids need to see that their lives make a difference.
If you have an opportunity, send your teen on a mission trip this summer. It can be great to go as a family. But, if you can’t, do whatever you can to help him or her go. Take a Saturday and help build a habitat house. Volunteer at a youth kitchen. Let them help with a VBS for underprivileged kids.
Every teenager is searching for their place in the world. They want to know that their lives matter. Right now, they’re scanning instagram and twitter for evidence. As parents, let’s give them evidence they can stand on. Let’s show them that the Advancement of the Gospel means giving hope and real help…not just words.