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I have recently read Chap Clark's Book, Hurt, Inside the World of Today's Teenagers, and have heard him speak twice in the last month and a half.

He discusses the lengthing of adolescense and how we need to do a better job of caring for them.

In 1970 the average age of the beginning of adolescense was 13 and ended at about 18. Today in 2005, studies have shown that the average of age of the beginning of adolescense is 11.7 and ends somewhere in the mid 20's! Chap then ascertains that todays systems of youth ministry were created in 1970 and worked well with a 5 year adolescent period. Adolescents is now a 15 year period and we must re-think how we minister to students.

He discusses the "convergence of the body" when it comes to effectively ministering to adolescents, meaning each students needs at least 5 caring adults in their life. He also states that we need to give students a place (meaning relationships not a building) and a mission.

I agree with all that Chap Clark has stated and it is really messing with my thinking right now. I really believe that we need to re-think the current paradigm of youth ministry.

If you have not yet read Hurt, let me strongly encourage you to do so.

Have you recognized the need to re-think how we do youth ministry so that we can more effectively minister to today's adolescence? Please share.

4 Responses to “Adolescence”

  1. Blogger Jason Retherford 

    My two cents on Hurt:

    Cultural shifts in this country have turned the tables if you will of what our grandparents "knew" as decent. We live in a world today vastly different than our grandparent's world. Beyond the Internet, and cell phones we live a in world where our children are taught to question the validity of everything they are taught. We are told to find our own way in this world. Only don't condemn others if your way varies in anyway from some one else's path. We live in a society that has extended adolescence, whether intentionally or unintentionally through various institutional shifts (farming communities to a public school phenomenon). Not only have we extended adolescence, we've confused the demarcation of adult hood and have systematically abandoned our young so that as adults we may find our own path.

    The crises in the family today is not so much that our kids are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sexual promiscuity, but that as parents we've by and large cut the communication lines with our kids. Somewhere, someone convinced parents that what we needed was to befriend our children for their emotional, physically and spiritual well-being. What has this produced for us? Teenagers who are confused about their place in the world. Kids who are confused about what it means to be kids. Teens who mimic what they see in the hypocritical live of the adults they encounter. The adults that do spend time with our teens are the ones they watch on television or see on movies. Our kids become what we are. If we quit engaging our kids, they will quit engaging us. Sure some of this happens, I don't many teens that don't pull back from mom and dad a little now and then, but when individuation occurs, and it will we mustn't allow change keep us from being actively involved in the lives of our kids.

    Our teens are the most stressed out, hurried, and worried generations of kids in any time since the creation of man. What are we doing to help them disengage from the cultural demands that weigh them down and take a lighter load?

    I know in our busy worlds we make excuses for neglecting family, church things, and other important social groupings. We have all this stuff, and more really is more and the more we accumulate the less time it seems we have for the ones most important to us. If you are a parent of a teen, here is simply scary truth: Teens today aren't like your generation. What you remember about high school and peer groups, etc., is vastly different today. Our kids today learn to wear masks to fit whatever roles they are playing at the time. If you spend anytime listening to the heart cries of American teens today, you will hear loneliness and hurt. Adolescents need us adults, and we need them.

    Brain you wrote and asked:
    "Have you recognized the need to re-think how we do youth ministry so that we can more effectively minister to today's adolescence? Please share.'

    I think that we certainly need to rethink the way we minister to youth. Kendra Casey Dean makes a statement that in order to reach this generation of teenagers with the gospel, that youth workers are going to need to be the best trained, best equipped ever. I think she is right. We do need to rethink YM, but let's do so theologically and may we let that theology spill over into our praxis. I know for the first two years of my experience in YM, I was a poiesis kind of guy. Poiesis is shooting from the hip. We need to have a plan, and then work the plan. But the question we all need to ask is how are we doing to God's standards?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Anonymous Anonymous 

    jason - that was a really great post. very well said.

    for what its worth, you guys really are helping me out these days. i recognize some of your names from the old YS forum. i used to hang out there a bit, but never said much. wonder if that place will ever get up and running again?



  3. Blogger Gman 

    In an academic setting I would recommend HURT. In discussing this book with several other youthworkers in a Roundtable - the basic premise or rather conclusion came to be is how can we get parents, youthworkers etc. to read this and understand where our teens are coming from?

  4. Blogger Brian Eberly 

    Great question Gman. I do know that Chap is currently working on a much more user friendly parent edition. It should be out sometime next year.

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