Categories
Culture youth ministry

Teenagers are incapable… until they aren’t

Gabrielle Douglas is 16 years old. This week she won 2 gold medals at the London Olympic games. She will be a junior in high school this year.

Missy Franklin is 17 years old. She also won 2 gold medals in London and owns 2 world records. She’s entering her senior year in high school.

If you want to see a few more stories about teenagers in the Olympics, The New York Times has a page dedicated to the endeavor.

The Capability vs. Expectations Gap

As a lover of teenagers universal and an often observer of their amazing capabilities— I enjoy the irony that America will celebrate Gabby and Missy’s victories as if they were their own daughters…

  • We acknowledge their physical prowess.
  • We acknowledge their dedication.
  • We admire the grace at which they handle their athletic events and the pressure of the world stage.
  • We admire the maturity in their handling sudden fame.

We each easily attribute downright adult descriptions on teenage Olympiads. 

This is ironic because from a societal perspective we don’t expect teenagers to be capable of such adult-like qualities. I mean… they can’t possibly be adults at 15-16-17, can they?

3 examples of this irony…

Raise expectations, friends. Most teenagers can do just about everything you can do… maybe better than you can. Let’s not just celebrate teenagers who hoist gold medals, let’s celebrate the capabilities of the teenagers in our lives.

And let’s kill agism, OK? Let’s judge people by what they can do instead.

Discover what their coaches know: When you expect someone’s very best, you’ll get it. When you expect nothing, you’ll get it.  

Categories
youth ministry

4 Ways We Hold High School Students Back

Photo by Megan Ann via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In reading Robert Epstein’s book, Teen 2.0, the one thing that fundamentally shifted my thinking is that adults lament about childish behavior while simultaneously funding and celebrating it.

Politely, Epstein says we have infantalized our youth. Maybe we need to take it a step further? We treat our young like pets.

4 Quick Examples to Illustrate that Point

  1. We spend bagillions of dollars on the Rule of Law and Regulation of Teenagers: In the last 40 years we have created an immense amount of laws aimed at regulating behavior of those under 18. We force them to go to school. We regulate where they can go when school is out. We regulate when they can be out. We tell them what they can wear. Who they can be with. What they can ingest or not ingest. Epstein did a study comparing inmates to high school students and found that men in prison have more freedoms. But magically, despite 18 years old not being a significant number in physical or emotional development, we have decided that those over 18 can do whatever they want.
  2. We Celebrate Low Expectations: We have removed adult expectations from high school students. They can’t be bothered to even get out of bed in the summer, right? Forget the fact that physically high school students are near the pinnacle of their strength and can outwork their parents. Forget the fact that the adolescent brain is mostly ready to tackle adulthood, ever seen what happens when a teenage son asks his mom to help him with his physics homework? And forget the fact that teenagers can do amazing things. (Like say, discover a cancer treatment for a high school science fair) Instead of ramping up expectations for them, in our wealth, we remove expectations of productivity. We even limit the ability to have expectations of our high school students. Instead, we slyly whine about our teenage children at home and what they won’t do. Or a post-college student who has moved home but can’t find the right job.
  3. We have an unlimited spending appetite for teenage sexuality: Think of how many billions of dollars are spent annually preventing teen pregnancy? BILLIONS! But not nearly as many billions as are spent celebrating adolescent sex in advertising, television, movies, etc. Our culture has an obsession with adolescent sexuality. It’s taboo. And that taboo drives our spending on both prevention and celebration. Since we’ve labeled high school students as children, this forces a label that their sexual activities as irresponsible. Meanwhile everything in pop culture celebrates adolescent virility and fertility. (Television, music, news media, movies, etc.) Physically, the average 16 year old is completely ready for sex. But if that 16 year old wants to have a serious, long-term relationship? Oh heck no! We need to prevent it. We argue that they aren’t emotionally ready for a sexual relationship. (Hypocritically, we were but deny that even happened. And our great-grandparents married at 16 and had our grandparents at 19. Today’s teen pregnancy tragedy was yesterday’s normal sexual expectation.) Meanwhile, our Christian constructions argue for waiting until marriage… something which we’ve delayed almost 10 years on average in just 100 years! The average first marriage for a woman in the U.S. is now 26.5 years old.
  4. We Spend a Lot Keeping Teenagers Out of the Workplace: Up until the Great Depression most adolescents didn’t finish high school and entered the trades, farming, or a factory to work full-time. For the most part that is now illegal. We’ve regulated the types of and length of employment adolescents can participate in. We’ve created a false expectation that every student should go to college. (A notion our economy cannot support.) But we’ve created a multi-trillion dollar industry called compulsory high school we can’t bear to let go of or adjust in all of its disfunction. Instead, we now expect that students won’t go to work, earn money for their families, or otherwise contribute because they will perpetually get education for things they don’t want to study. We expect them to consume. And we’ve created industries around entertaining them so they have something to do while not working or not learning. (Sports, video games, summer school, camps, etc.)

Is it no wonder why this period of adolescence has extended from 4-5 years in the 1940s to 13-14 years today? 

Maybe it is time we reverse this trend? Maybe we need to start by getting out of the way and allowing adolescents to become adults?

Categories
Christian Living

Let Grace be our language

Is grace enough for you?

Maybe I’m a cynic but I don’t think grace is a hallmark of a lot of Christians. We’re too busy having unrealistic expectations for one another and then wallowing in the disappointment of failed relationships.

I’m too busy judging you for judging me for grace!

Let’s get past this oddity of evangelical culture and descend into the heart of what we believe.

We’re all perfectly imperfect. We need to expect imperfection from the people around us while individually, through the power of Jesus, trying to make our live more like Jesus. Not to celebrate it. But build it into our expectations for one another.

I sin. I am messy. I hate things about my nature. Loathe even. I sadden myself with my sinfulness. Sometimes I disgust myself.

Failure is a part of our walk with Christ. Some would say it is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It’s part of being a leader. It’s part of maturing. It’s part of learning.

You simply cannot walk with Jesus in a state of false perception of yourself, your mess, and your unique ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

Think about it like this…

The whole reason God created Eve was not for a sin bringing playmate. It was because the Father looked at his creation and said, “Its not good for man to be alone.”

There is no more alone place than in a broken relationship. Conversely, there is little more powerful on this world than a grace-filled relationship with two people.

Here’s my encouragement

Every day you are given the choice between grace and judgement. In all things, chose grace.