Jill and I have been blessed to raise a family through the several stages that accompany parenting. There were many years when our house was filled (sometimes literally!) with babies. Dealing with infants has many challenges, but to be honest, most of my memories are of the joys that attended those years.
As our children grew older we encountered the school-going stage, and this was perhaps the busiest time of our life. With all of the activities that accompanied the years when our children were in public school, followed by home-schooling years, which often included various intramurals, life was very hectic. (Oh, the joy of the last Eisteddfod and Christmas program!) And for the past thirteen years (and counting) it has been our privilege to always have had at least one teenager in our home. (At one stage we had four at a time.) And yes, you read that correctly: It was our privilege to have teenagers.
For whatever reason, Jill and I, for the most part, have counted it a joy to have teenagers. Certainly, these years had their challenges, as our children faced what seemed like daunting circumstances, and as they began to ask questions of things that, until then, were merely assumed. Nevertheless, we did not find our teenaged children to be rebellious, disrespectful or out of control. At least in our experience, our teenaged children never seemed to feel that they needed to sow their wild oats by challenging everything they had been raised to value. No, our experience with teenagers has been a blessing—for they have been a blessing. And, if I may presume to speak for many families in our church, our case is not an anomaly; it is not unique to the Van Meters.
BBC has been blessed with a fine group that we identify as the YP. These young people age roughly from 13-18 years and are a key component in the body life of our church. If you were to take this group of believers out of our membership, much of our ministry would suffer. For instance our music ministry would feel the loss, and so would the congregation on a Sunday. Awana would, at the very least, be hamstrung; and quite likely it might even come to a grinding halt if you took the YP out of the equation. Our crèche would be understaffed; our KFC would be a shadow of what it is in effectiveness. Further, the church building would be very, very quiet on Friday nights! If BBC lost this key group in our church then those of us who are growing older would not have the pleasure of admiring the energy of these young people. Clearly the YP God’s gift to us. So let’s treat them like it.
Sometimes, there are people in the church who are abuzz with criticism of this precious group. Irresponsible comments are sometimes made: “These young people are not helpful,” or, “The YP just think about themselves,” or, “They don’t seem to be grateful.” From my observation, the vast majority of BBC’s teenagers are thoughtful, thankful and helpful. I don’t doubt that they can also be very painful. But this is not the norm. In fact—let’s be frank—regardless of age group, we can all be painful at times. But our worst moment should not be the standard by which we are defined. So with the YP.
It will be helpful for all of us to remember that the YP are, strictly speaking, young adults. The whole concept of “adolescence” is a misnomer arising from unbiblical sociological thinking. The YP are not in the twilight zone between childhood and adulthood. The Bible recognises them as adults. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably no older than 15 when she was blessed with the conception of Messiah by the Holy Spirit. Daniel, too, was a young teenager when he and his teenaged friends boldly stood for their faith before the most powerful human king on earth. David was a teenager when he slew Goliath. The list of young people who did hard things is long in world history!
My point in all of this is not to blindly defend all of the conduct of all young people. But at the same time I think it is important that we commend the character and conduct of our YP for where it is deserved.
I also want to make the appeal to those of us who are OP (older people!) to aid the YP in the furtherance of their spiritual and social maturity. And treating them as no-accounts or as our own personal slaves is not the way to do so. Neither is a constant barrage of criticism or by treating them as nonexistent when in their midst.
For instance, when was the last time that you took the initiative to greet them or to thank them for something that they have done? Why not consider inviting them for tea? Take the initiative to engage with them in conversation after a church service. And if you think that they would be good babysitters then hire them for such. They will appreciate both your trust and your cash! Further, your children will be exposed to some wonderful role models for when they are teenagers.
The old hymn reminds us to count our many blessings and name them one by one. Apply that to the YP, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!