Archive for parenting teens

.::Teens Marketing Themselves

Posted in adolescence, Ministry, Parenting Teens, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , on December 15, 2011 by Walter

Recently I was talking with bunch of parents of teens where we were talking about the biggest sexual temptations that our teens are/will be facing.  In the midst of the discussion, one of the parents used the term “marketing” in reference to the ways it seems teen girls have to present themselves to the opposite sex in order to gain any modicum of attention.

I found that term “marketing” particularly captivating as it rang hauntingly true.  In the adolescent world, it does seem like there is fierce competition for another’s attention.  Students in their quest for identity send themselves down a path to doing/wearing/trying almost anything just to get noticed.  Some parents shared stories of photo after photo they have seen on Facebook of scantily clad girls that are up there for all the world to see.  Others commiserated over the different wardrobe battles they have to endure in order to get out of the mall without needing stitches.

On the other end of the gender aisle, Dads worry about the ease at which pornography is accessible for their sons and what that kind of marketing is doing to their boys perception of reality, personhood, and truth.  We aren’t even going near the age at which so many of the guys I talk to have seen performance enhancing drugs and steroids in the locker room in an attempt to get noticed on the field.

It seems like every where a teen turns there are so many gimmicks that students resort to in order to try to “market” themselves and stand out in a crowd.

So what is a parent, coach, youth worker, teacher, to do?

Than answer is almost too simple . . . notice them NOW.

SEE the teens around you and say “Hi.” Trust me, they are there, you jsut maight not have seen them.

Don’t just notice kids who ACHIEVE (QBs, STraight A Students, Cheerleader, Soloists, Starting Forward, etc.) . . . notice the introvert in the corner and sit with them.

Don’t just hang out with the “pretty kids” . . . didn’t we get our fill of that kind of behavior in high school?

Find those kids who ARE trying to hide because they just do not know how to market themselves or got too tired trying to play that marketing game . . . and give them the time of day.

Talk WITH teens, not just TO them.  Learn who they are, What makes them tick? What did they do last weekend? What’s their favorite band on their iPod? Ask them what movie you should get off Netflix and Why?

Tell them some stories from your life because, believe it or not, they want to know you too!  (more on that in future blogs)

Praise a kid just for EXISTING not for performance . . . Jesus did that kind of thing all the time, didn’t he?

WARNING:  This WILL be awkward at moments!  You will blow it from time to time.  But I guarantee that it WILL make a difference.  The results most certainly will not be immediate, but they will be eternal.

This is how we begin to be the hands and feet of Jesus and start to bring down the Madison Ave lie factory that have told our young people they aren’t good enough to the point they have felt the need to start these mini-marketing campaigns of their own.


.::Identity Pt. IV: Identity & Interdependence

Posted in adolescence, disciplines, Ministry, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , on July 19, 2010 by Walter

Earlier this year Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford were the faces of an evangelistic ad campaign called, “I Am Second,” where they get their role in community partially right putting God first and themselves second.  Unfortunately, they only needed to look farther back in football history at the memoirs of Gale Sayers, where he penned the idea of “I am third” [God first, Others second and myself third].  No one can fault McCoy or Bradford for their mistake as they are still adolescents by today’s standards (adolescence currently extends into the mid 20’s now).

Recently, I came across this shirt in the section targeted for 8-10 year old boys and was bitterly disappointed at Nike’s marketing.  While it does cause one to laugh, what is disheartening is that this shirt epitomizes much of what has gone wrong with the systems what were originally created to protect and enrich our young people.  When inculcating an identity into today’s young people it is important that those of us who are adults reinforce that God comes first, Others come second and self comes third.  This is the foundation of a healthy identity that will launch an adolescent successfully into adulthood. It isn’t until an individual realizes that “I need others” and “Others need me” that they con finally enter into adulthood in a healthy and productive fashion.  Scholars call this “Interdependence.”

Interdependence is a vital exchange of dependence that: 1. Keeps one humble to the point that they recognize their need for others and 2. Keeps one serving others with their gifts as they realize they are needed by others.

Adults can help adolescents mature through helping them realize their need for others. Selfishness seems to be a inalienable right of adolescence.  However, this does not need to be the norm.  Adults can help teens see their need for others through healthy, intergenerational community experiences.  Hearing the stories of other generations CONNECTS students to these segments of the population.  Serving alongside others helps them realize others giftedness and value.  Simply BEING with others helps teens see that others actually have something that is of worth.  It is impossible to develop this need in teens if they are not spending TIME with people of other generations.

When a teen develops this NEED for others, then their IDENTITY begins to absorb the larger community into it.

2.  Adults also need to help teens understand that others are depend on them as well. Teens are an indispensable part of the broader community.  When we develop systems that sends them into the deep corners of the culture out of our sight, then we begin to believe that we don’t need them.  Teens bring vitality, hope, and future to our community that is a sobering reminder of who we are and what we are about as a community.  Teens remind us WHY we gather together.  Why we work? Why the environment is important?  For without the children of our world, what we do is simply in vain.  When adults forget their need for teens, they simply regress into adolescence again.  (Just look at the self-indulgent lifestyles of the baby boomers of the 1980s for a quick reminder)

Adults simply need to begin to INVEST THEIR LIVES into the lives of teens they know in order to remind themselves of their need for teens. Volunteering with the high school teams, getting to know the teens names in the neighborhood, being around teens (in non creeper ways), are ways that you can begin to invest in the lives of teens.  So just open your eyes to those teens that are in your world.  Say “Hi” and introduce yourself.  I know it is scary and intimidating, but give it a try.

.::Identity pt. I

Posted in church, Ministry, spiritual disciplines, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Walter

One of the main questions the task of adolescence answers for a teen is the question of “Identity.”  In other words, until a teen can answer the question, “Who am I?” they haven’t successfully navigated themselves to adulthood.

It is a painful process at time to watch individuals attempt to answer this question in some meaningless and often shallow ways.  Some students try to answer that with a girl friend or boy friend.  You know that person who went from relationship to relationship in high school.  It always seemed as if they couldn’t go two weeks without a significant other hanging off their arm.  It was as if they were trying to have that relationship as the marker of who they were.  Chances are that relationship was their attempt at trying to answer, “Who am I?”

Other students try to answer that question with outside achievements such as sports, drama, band, speech, etc.  I have witnessed students being shipped from one activity to the next without ever having two seconds of down time in order to put two thoughts together (or even eat a decent meal WITH their family.)  Coincidentally, I overheard two high school girls today talking about all the different activities they are involved in from track, half marathons, band, summer reading, soccer and more.  Sadly, they were lamenting the fact that they don’t get to see each other enough (I wonder why?)  Again, these hectic schedules to gain  trophies, letterman jackets, leading roles, first chairs, etc. are likely attempts to define who they were.

Students also try other external means to try to clothe themselves with a persona, literally.  I tried this my junior year in high school.  I was cursed with straight, straight hair that had no body whatsoever.  I longed for hair you could do SOMETHING with–so I tried a perm.  (I know it is difficult for many of you to even imagine me with ANY hair, not to mention a curly Barry Mannilow-esuqe frock that I donned for my unfortunate senior picture.  Cest la vie.  I was trying to be something that I wasn’t.  We all try on some persona from time to time to try to figure out what fits and what doesn’t.


Definitely.  These varied attempts to answer the important question of Identity is one of the main keys of the adolescent journey.  While we are all created in the image of God, we don’t all know what that image IS exactly, especially as we enter adolescence.

Just look at Madison Avenue’s complete onslaught on the adolescent psyche and its nefarious attacks at their fragile self-confident and malleable souls.  Billions are spent each year to target that precious 14-18 year old demographic.  They know how much disposable income teens possess and they know exactly what their weaknesses are and the advertising firms use pinpoint accuracy to target those weaknesses so that teens lessen their grip on those dollars.  The next time you see an advertisement that you don’t get, ask yourself, “What age group are they targeting?”  Chance are your answer will be 14-18 year old females.  Because Madison Ave., Hollister Co. Abercrombie, (Insert the store in the Mall you don’t Get here), Aeropostale, etc. all want to answer the question of Identity for the adolescent.  I remember feeling like I was somebody when I had a little green alligator on the left side of my chest.

The bottom line of that identity quest for an adolescent is that there are countless factors that go in to deciding who and what will answer that question for the teens you know.  Friends will undoubtedly have some influence, but not the overpowering master control many adults think that peers possess (more on that later in this series).  Ad firms will have some power.

My conclusion: Parents and Mentors perhaps have the most power in helping a student navigate the identity quest of adolescence.  Unfortunately, we haven’t done a good enough job of 1.  Being models and Persons WORTH emulating.  and 2. Speaking more boldly into the lives of young people and AFFIRMING their specific giftedness.  I will unpack HOW we can do this later in this series as well . . . so stay tuned.


  • A Theology of Identity and the Teenager
  • More Theology of Identity and the Adolescent
  • Becoming a Guardian of the Adolescent Soul
  • What is a Parent to do? Practical Suggestions of Affirming the Identity of the teens in my life.