I begin with an apology to our teenagers. Forgive me for beginning in this way. Please permit me to begin by "connecting" with everyone older than teens. Forgive me while I take just a moment to talk to non-teen adults.

I want to share two thoughts with you non-teen adults. Can you relate to these statements? Statement number one: one of God's special gifts in this life is that we have to survive adolescence only once. Many times I have listened to adults talking about teenage adventures. Often I hear them say, "It is amazing that we survived!"

Statement two: you do not pay for your rearing until you are the parent of teens.

Teens, those statements are not a slam on you. They just acknowledge an ancient truth. A teenager's life is a hard life.

  1. Adolescence is one of life's greatest transitions; it may be the greatest single transition in our physical life span.
    1. Adolescence primarily involves the journey from a child's life to an adult's life.
      1. The transition called adolescence produces enormous change.
        1. Physically, your body makes incredible, visible changes.
        2. Emotionally, you discover feelings that you have never experienced.
        3. Mentally, your mind begins to work in ways that it never worked.
      2. For ten to twelve years this person has been a child.
        1. Parents talked to this person as a child.
        2. Parents reasoned with this person as a child.
        3. Parents explained things to this person as a child.
        4. Parents focused this person as a child.
        5. And, with occasional exceptions, this person accepted as fact that he or she was a child.
      3. Then adolescence begins, and almost immediately the same person is insulted if parents treat him or her as a child.
        1. This transition drives parents crazy--they had a child; they always had a child; now what they have is not a child; but they are not sure what it is.
        2. Sometimes he or she feels and acts like a child.
        3. Sometimes he or she demands to be treated as an adult.
        4. On any given day parents know it is virtually useless to try to anticipate how this "not a child; not an adult" will think and act that day.
    2. The truth is simply stated but complicated to understand: the adolescent is not a child any more.
      1. As a child, he or she may have challenged your decisions and your acts.
      2. But now the challenge is much more complicated: now he or she challenges your thoughts, your reasoning, your logic, and your conclusions.
      3. He or she thinks about things that you never thought about and are not interested in considering.
      4. He or she questions things that you never questioned.
      5. He or she challenges your absolutes--you don't challenge absolutes!
      6. These new people living in your house who jumped into your child's body don't want the explanations that you always gave your child.
        1. They want answers, answers you have not thought about.
        2. They want answers that they can wrap their reasoning and understanding around.
        3. They want answers that can be tested with their questions and reasoning.
    3. As a parent, you face a critical decision, and you will make that decision.
      1. You can commit yourself to enforcing control about everything in every detail: "I am the parent and you are the child, and as long as you live under this roof you will do what I say do and you will do it my way--end of discussion."
        1. But this is the truth: the only control you have is physical control while he or she is in your presence.
        2. You may exercise control, but your control will not determine what he or she thinks, what he or she feels, or what he or she holds in the heart.
        3. Control may win a specific battle, but using control alone will lose the war.
      2. The moment will come when he or she will leave and will not be under any form of your control.

  2. Being an adolescent is extremely frustrating.
    1. Through this transition a person becomes a "self."
      1. During adolescence a person is discovering what it means to be "me."
      2. The one basic answer an adolescence searches for is, "Who am I?"
    2. Peer pressure is greater during adolescence than it ever be again in adult life.
      1. Peer pressure always exists; adults always cope with peer pressure.
      2. But adolescent peer pressure is the peer pressure that exists in the adult world, but it comes before the teen has the experience of an adult.
      3. As the adolescent struggles to find, "Who am I?" his or her self-concept and personal identity are powerfully linked to peer pressure.

  3. Adolescence provides the church an incredible teaching opportunity.
    1. Why?
      1. Typically the adolescent has an open mind.
        1. A teenager will consider any input.
        2. He or she is open to new concepts and challenging ideas.
        3. Teens typically approach anything with the openness of honest examination.
      2. Probably there is no other age that is as unprejudiced as the teen years.
        1. Everything is super simple: life has almost no gray areas; everything is good or bad, black or white.
        2. But, teens are unlikely to be judgmental; they are more likely to accept a person for who he or she is at that moment.
      3. For these reasons teens respect and respond to openness.
        1. They do not care what you know until you share who you are.
        2. They respond poorly to what you think they need to know.
        3. They respond quickly to someone who "listens to understand" before they speak.
        4. If we want teens to understand our thoughts, we must be open to understanding their thoughts.
          1. To adults, that probably is the most frightening reality about adolescence.
          2. Understanding teens' thinking makes most adults very uncomfortable.
    2. For the church to take advantage of this opportunity, adult Christians need some basic understandings.
      1. Teens don't buy "adult assumptions" at face value, and they recognize an adult assumption when they see it.
      2. Teens hate hypocrisy and pretense.
      3. Teens place a high value on relationships; betrayal is the sin of sins.
      4. Teens are very teachable, but they despise indoctrination.
      5. Teens learn by exploring answers to questions; they respond poorly to lectures.
      6. Their education process has relied heavily on the visual.
        1. The computer is the foundation of their entertainment and education.
        2. They learn with their eyes much faster than with their ears.
    3. The teens everyday world is radically different from the everyday world of most of us.
      1. At least half of their peers live in broken homes or blended families.
      2. Directly or through the lives of peers, daily they see the hostility of divorce, the depersonalization of the blended family, betrayal, and abandonment.
      3. Many of them have seen more relationship pain and lovelessness in two to four years than some of us have seen in a lifetime.
      4. Weapons, drugs, alcohol, sexual involvement, and rape are a part of their everyday world.
        1. They are starved to death for openness, trustworthiness, honesty, and relevance.
        2. They want help and answers, not platitudes that do not understand their world.
    4. For teachers, teens need Christians who love them, who care about what is happening in their lives, who are honest and open with them.
      1. For teachers, they need informed thinkers who are willing to be open and honest.
      2. It is not necessary to have all the answers to be a beloved teacher of teens.
      3. It is important to listen, to care, and to understand problems to be a beloved teacher.

  4. You may disagree with this, but I want you to consider it. Included among our teachers of teens, we need some "been there" Christian men and women.
    1. A "been there" Christian man or woman is a Christian who made a mistake, lived through the immediate consequence of the mistake, and recovered by allowing God to put his or her life back together again.
      1. Some lessons about the continuing consequences and pain of an abortion can be taught only by a Christian who has spiritually recovered from an abortion.
      2. Some lessons about the devastation of drugs or alcoholism can be taught only by a Christian who escaped the control of those addictions.
      3. Some lessons about the cost and unique problems of being sexually active can be taught only by a Christian who has recovered from that problem.
      4. Some lessons about the hidden pain, the continuing problems, and the personal devastation of a broken home can be taught only by a Christian who has experienced that problem and recovered.
      5. "Been there" Christians have an understanding of the problem and the consequences no one else has; they understand the continuing challenge as no one else does.
    2. If you feel anger and resentment because I would dare make that suggestion, would you consider this from scripture?
      1. God picked a "been there" Christian to be the primary leader and teacher in the first congregation.
        1. Three times Peter denied that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).
        2. Verse 74 states Peter affirmed that he did not know Jesus by cursing and swearing (taking an oath) that he did not know the man.
        3. Fifty days later God chose this "been there" Christian to preach the first sermon about the resurrection in the very place that he denied Jesus.
      2. God chose a "been there" Christian to be a unique missionary to the world.
        1. Acts 8:3 states Paul ravaged the church by making a house to house search, arresting Christians, dragging men and women out of their homes, and putting them in prison.
        2. Acts 9:1 states he breathed threats and murder against Christians.
        3. In 1 Timothy 1:13 Paul confessed that in those days he blasphemed, persecuted, and was violently aggressive against Christians.
      3. The key point is this: these "been there" Christians recovered in Christ, and because they did, they had something very special to share about the power of faith in Christ--and God knew it.

Not just our teenagers, but all teenagers, exist as an incredible opportunity if we have the courage to meet the challenge. It is a very relevant challenge. The teenagers of today are the adults of tomorrow. If we cannot help them now, they will not listen to us then.


This is the basic message we need to share with teens and all adults. Hope is found in Jesus. Forgiveness is found in Jesus. New beginnings are found in Jesus. Healing of the heart and soul are found in Jesus. New life is found in Jesus. Peace is found in Jesus.

Have you found them?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 17 January 1999

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