“Wait. What? You want me to work with teenagers? Really?” The questions that I had for God when I was 19 years old. I had no idea what I was jumping into. And I jumped in with both feet.
It was awesome. No seriously, awesome. Never a dull moment. Never. I can’t think of a better way to spend most of my adult life.
As a student minister, one of the things that you must develop is the ability to communicate differently depending on who you are talking to, a teenager or a parent of a teenager. You know, the “becoming all things to all people” kind of thing. For instance, when I would run into one my students, the greeting that I would use was “Hey. How’s it going?” Laid back. Casual. And then when I would run into one of the parents of these students, it was more along the lines of “Hey. How are you doing?” A little bit more refined. The difference was subtle but it was different.
And then one day those two words collided. Yes, “words.”
I was at a youth conference walking toward our next meeting and looked up to see another individual coming toward me. He was an anomaly that I had no plan for. I couldn’t tell if he was a parent or a student. My brain could not process fast enough. The required “as-you-pass-someone-greeting” was upon me so I just started talking. I said “Hey.” (As far as stalls go, “hey” was not one of my best efforts.) C’mon brain, which greeting are you going to go with? I continued to stall with “how’s it” which is the beginning of the student version of greeting others. But I still can’t tell. Parent? Student? Instead of saying “going” as in “how’s it going” I went with a new word. I combined the two greetings (going and doing) and said “gooing (rhymes with what cows do…mooing).” Yep, I greeted him with “how’s it gooing.” The two words collided. I heard him laugh as he continued on his way. It was all I could do as well. Sheesh.
Living between the worlds of parents and teenagers gives you an interesting vantage point. On the one hand, you are immersed into the world of teenagers. You learn their language, their music, their clothing styles, their friendships, their heroes, their strenghts, and their struggles. But on the other hand, you also get a glimpse into the world of their parents. You see things. You hear things. Good things. Not so good things. You begin to get an understanding of why a student may have turned out the way they did. You notice that there are some parents out there that really understood what it meant to be a parent. They created a great normal for their children. You also know parents that wish they could go back and start all over again. Regrets.
It left me with some questions that I wanted answered before I had teenagers of my own. Why was this happening? Why were some students turning out great and other students giving their parents all kinds of grief? Were there things in common? The answer is yes. There was most definitely things in common.
And that’s why I’m doing this. I would love to share with you what I discovered. I hope you’ll keep reading.
Next time: two things about teenagers that should affect everything you are doing as a parent now. It’s why “creating a great normal” should be important to all of us. Very important.