We hope this resource will inspire you to have some great conversations with your kids!
1. Be a Student of What Your Kids are Learning
In the dog-eat-dog world of middle school and high school, survival of the fittest often seems like the law of the land. And when we’re on the bottom of the food chain, this idea of a pecking order can start to affect the way we understand God—and maybe even the way we believe God sees us. But what if we were able to reverse this idea? What if something in Scripture allowed us to turn survival of the fittest on its head? Maybe we can start to flip the idea of “only the strong survive” and live in the reality that God has a bigger purpose and a better picture in mind—and this purpose and picture involves all of us—the strong, the weak, the in, the out, those you would expect, and those you wouldn’t. Maybe in an effort to reverse Darwin, we need to start by understanding who God created us to be and how to live like it matters.
2. Be a Student of Your Student
Take a moment to think back—way, way back—to those first days of middle school. Or to the moments and memories that still define your high school experience. Or, get really bold and break out an old yearbook and see what you find. Feathered bangs? Side ponytails? Maybe even a mullet? Or, maybe seeing those old pictures brings back memories of who you thought you would one day be and all the adventures you hoped to have. Maybe you envisioned getting out of your small town and attending college in a bustling urban center, or studying abroad and soaking in the European culture. But even if those hopes and dreams didn’t pan out, they probably helped you dig deeper to define who you were, sometimes by simply figuring out who you were are not.
And for many of us, this process is still an ongoing part of our lives. It may even be that we were more sure of who we were at 18 than we are now that we have children, a job, a mortgage and a “life.” But why is it that we are still working so hard at figuring this out? Sometimes it seems that in our now grown-up lives we are working harder to convince other people of who we are. Whether on our Facebook profiles (yep, our students aren’t the only ones) or through conversations with friends, family and even other parents we are often caught up in a PR battle … with ourselves. We try to define ourselves by the way we represent ourselves to the world and in the process, we end up forgetting who we really are. Throw in 24/7 parenting duties, work tasks, daily household management, church and family life and any other threads of schedules and responsibilities and we get lost in the mix altogether!
And, as you may have noticed, we usually realize the weight of figuring out who we are in times of crisis or great change. Often, we find that somewhere along the line we have “activating events” that trigger us to shatter the image of who we think we are and dig deep again to find our true selves, to rediscover who we truly are.
And for our students, these activating events happen on a daily or maybe even hourly basis. They don’t make the team. They fail a test. They get dropped by a group of friends that were once their whole world. And like us, when this happens to our students, they get to pause, reflect, pick up the pieces and walk away in their new—or maybe just dusted off—identity.
3. Action Point
Sit down with your teenager and talk about a time when something happened to you that redefined who you are. Maybe it was a divorce, or even some defining moment that occurred before they were ever born. Whatever it is, talk about how it changed you and led you to better understand yourself.
Then, ask them if anything has happened this week that has caused them to feel “less than.” What was it? How did it make them feel? Did it make them want to change something about themselves? Did it make them feel like they don’t really know who they are or where they belong?
Now speak into that place of vulnerability and insecurity. What do you see in your student that is unique? What would be lost if they changed themselves in order to fit in? Why does it matter that they strive to be just who God created them to be?
Be sure to carve out some intentional time to sit down and wrestle through these questions with your student. And remember, even if they don’t open up as much as you would hope or like, the fact that you took the time and cared enough to ask will pay huge dividends in the future. Because just knowing what they are going through means the world to your student, even if they aren’t able to show it.
We’d love to hear your stories and experiences with your kids. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!
Youth Ministry Team