Are there times where parents and church leaders unknowingly hurt our growing-up teens and how can we be aware of our mistakes? Pastor Isaiah shares his insights.
As a pastor that has being leading youths for more than a decade, and a parent of three daughters, I have often been asked “How to connect or lead teens better?” I’ve pondered the many possibilities of how I could’ve done better leading teens. Before I share some of these tips, let me just share some of the things that would totally wreck your relationship with them.
In the world of teens, the most important factors are acceptance and trust. They want to feel like they belong and they want to be trusted. Acceptance means to be loved and cherished for who they are, so they won’t need to be who they are not. Sadly, in search of acceptance, they give up being themselves and become someone they are not, so that they can be accepted among their friends. Trust, on the other hand, is them telling you that they believe that you have their interests in mind. Knowing these two factors are important in the life of a teen, let me list down some things that would make a teen not want to trust you and not feel that they belong with you.
Teens hate to be compared with other teens. In media and movies, we often see scenes where a parent would compare their child’s results with their relative’s children. In the mind of a teen, the moment you start comparing, it means that he or she is not good enough for you which makes them think that they don’t belong.
Teens hate to be embarrassed in front of their friends. The trust factor is tested when we embarrass them. I am not talking about something like challenging them to sing in front of a group of people, rather, I’m referring to revealing their faults and weakness among friends and family. I am not saying that we don’t confront their issues if there are issues, but we should do it in a safe environment, rather than calling them out on it in front of others.
Teens hate double standards. The most common reason that results in many Christian teens leaving a youth group or church is their families. They see two behaviors at play every day. A behavior of their parents in church and another behavior of them at home. The double standards that they see from their parents before them on a regular basis creates an obstacle in their mind that faith is only for show. In history, we saw how the father of the communism, Karl Marx, became an atheist due to the behavior of his parents. I have said many times to parents, as well as reminded repeatedly that our actions will produce a reaction from our children. Whether the reaction is positive or negative, it all depends on the actions we are sowing into them. The sowing and reaping principle does not only apply to our offerings to God but also in our actions to our kids.
Teens hate people breathing down their neck. The problem with us being too overly protective and controlling will only cause teens to be ever more protective of the secrets that they conceal. In the minds of the youths, your behavior show a lack of respect and most of all a lack of trust. Teens wants to be “believed” and in return they will give you the access to their “trust”. Trust isn’t given but earned. We need to earn that trust by believing in them and standing with them.
After sharing some thoughts on what teens hate, I would like to give 3 tips that I believe will help us build our teens to last rather than ruin them for life.
Teens are not looking for the perfect pastors, leaders, Mums or Dads. In fact, it is the opposite. They are looking for those who are “REAL” and not fake. What do I mean by real? It means someone who is genuine, sincere and vulnerable. Willing to reveal your weaknesses and quick to apologise for your mistakes. I remembered once where I caned my second daughter thinking that she did something that we warned her not to do but only to find out that the information given was inaccurate but I had already caned her! I brought her in front of my wife and asked her to forgive me for making that mistake. At that moment, she looked at me and said “It is ok, Daddy!” My action to be vulnerable to her and accountable to my wife led her to still trust her “Superhero”— me! We are called to uphold truth in our home and ministries but being real will help us keep them rather than lose them.
Teens are looking for people who are reliable. They need you to be there not only at the best moments of their lives but also at the worst moments that they are going through. They are not looking for instruction but friendship with their pastors, leaders and parents. If they cannot find the support there, they will look elsewhere. Three out of four teens that committed crimes at a young age showed that they did not have reliable support to point them in the right direction, so they looked for other options to fill that void. They are looking for a place where they can share, discuss and be listened too instead of being nagged at and shunned away. They don’t need you to be there for them 24/7 but they need to know that you will be there whenever they need you, and you will be consistent to lead them into the right path.
Teens want you to be realistic with them. As pastors, leaders and parents, we always want them to achieve more and become amazing, talented and super spiritual beings. In our attempt to challenge them to become these beings, we forget that they are ultimately still in their teens. What do I mean by that? We need to keep on expecting them to reach higher, but we must leave room for them to learn and make mistakes. It is in the process of learning from their mistakes that they will learn to trust the leaders they are serving through the response that they receive.
I believe there are more ways to connect and build up our teens rather than to ruin them for life. If you think that you might have done it wrongly, let me remind you of the story of me caning my second daughter. Sometimes, all we need is to be vulnerable and humble ourselves in front of them. Apologize for our mistakes openly. I pray that this short article will bring healing between pastors and their teens, parents and their teens, as mentioned in Malachi 4:6.
About Pastor Isaiah Fadzlin
Pastor Isaiah Fadzlin is the Associate Pastor at Faith Assembly of God. He oversees the Community, Amplify (Youth & Young Adult of Faith AG), HOD of Next Gen and the EXCO of the church. He has been in full-time ministry for more than 15 years. He is married to Carol and together they have three beautiful daughters.