Interesting comment I heard from a mom yesterday. She and I had each driven a 15-passenger van full of young children, to our beautiful church camp in Montana. Our summer church staff was in charge, made up of seven high school and college students.
“I was a little worried when I saw that there weren’t any adults in charge of all these kids,” she said. “They did great, though.”
I knew what she was thinking: A bunch of teenagers to take care of little kids at a lake camp all day?
But let me tell you something, there were four 19-year-olds in that group and a few older high schoolers, and they did an incredible job with all of those kids. The staff was organized, attentive, and kind. If you have ever tried to manage a herd of small children, you would have been impressed at how smoothly they transitioned the kids from one activity to another.
I knew they would do an incredible job, and I was right.
So I was thinking about this, and there’s a behind-the-scenes look you need to have. I’ve watched this group grow up, and don’t you want to know how they became such responsible leaders?
Here’s the thing –our youth leaders at church, along with the kids’ parents, gave them a lot of responsibility as they were teenagers. All of the staff had, at some point, been a part of teams that had gone to serve people somewhere, locally and even out of state and abroad. They had also been given responsibility to lead within the youth activities at church.
By the time they were 17, 18, and 19 years old, this group was ready to take on adult leadership positions. If I had had a small child, I would have easily entrusted him to the care of this staff.
So let me ask you –how are you treating your middle school or high school student? In your mind, have you created a special pocket called “teenager”, which means this person is too immature to be trusted with responsibility?
Do you think “teenagers” should just be having fun?
Do you think “teenagers” are just kids?
Whatever we think about our teens determines what level of work we require of them.
As a high school Spanish teacher, I’ve decided that I am going to look at my classes and see young adults. These are people who can drive, work jobs, and even start families (not recommended but physically possible, right?) When I view them as young adults instead of “teenagers”, it changes my expectations regarding their approach to work.
Now let me tell you about my son. He grew up in the same youth group at church and was given a lot of leadership opportunities. We encouraged him in this. Caleb just finished his freshman year of college, and by the end of the year he had so proved himself as a leader that he was given a prestigious position for next year –a position usually reserved for upperclassmen.
I had a chat with Caleb’s youth directors and thanked them for investing in our son and preparing him to be a responsible, trustworthy adult.
Let me leave you with this challenge: Picture your teen when he or she is 19 years old. Imagine him or her being competent enough to be entrusted with adult work and to do that work with excellence. What do you need to start doing now as a parent, to get your child to that place?