Are you having any difficulty communicating with your teenager? Do you hear a lot of truncated, unclear sentences? Maybe you tried hearing aids only to find they do not solve your problem. Well, look no further! “Mumble Unjumble” is here to help! This cuttingedge translator app will make the most muffled mumbling discernible. Consider this for example: “Canhamburgerout?” Within seconds your translation reads, “Can I hang out?” Or, “Nuttneats” quickly deciphers, “There’s nothing to eat.” “Candybarcar?” instantly appears, “Can I borrow the car?” Gone will be the days when you say, “I can’t hear you.” Or, “What did you say?” You won’t miss a beat. What an incredibly useful tool for parents, relatives, even teachers!
I must admit there was a time when I contemplated hearing aids. This led to a rather lighthearted brainstorm with my husband. I know, there are a zillion apps on the market geared toward interacting with one another. Why not a zillion and one? “Mother’s Mutter Maid” was in the running, too, but do not bother to look, it is not on the market, either.
Parents want to know what their teens are thinking about because they love them. It is striking that from the same family there might be one child who readily shares thoughts and feelings while another is quiet and reserved. Some view life with their cup half filled, while others half empty. Parents learn to make an extra effort at drawing out the quiet ones. What they have to say is important to us. The Lord has made each unique for his or her own place in the body of Christ.
Sometimes communication difficulties surface from a deeper problem that no app can fix. Is my child angry or afraid of something? Our teens can feel discouraged, lonely, and confused. In a world of constant chaos, violence, and blatant wickedness, there is so much for them to sort through. We live in dangerous times with many temptations. Sexual sins are flaunted all over the Internet, including homosexuality and transgender ideologies. The world judges good as evil and evil as good. Scripture is mocked. Some surveys show that Generation Z is more likely than previous generations to identify as atheist or agnostic. The devil wants nothing better than to destroy the church.
Our denomination has faced a number of painful trials in the last several years. We may wonder how it is affecting our children. Now more than ever it is invaluable to have heart-to-heart talks with them, listening to them, helping to sort through what troubles them or does not make sense. We would like to think our congregation and denomination is a bastion untainted from the wicked world. Perhaps those from other denominations would like to think the same about theirs. Yet in reality we all know that as long as there is sin, every church will continue to battle against it from within. We pray that the Lord turn such trials to our profit, that there is repentance and restoration, that we grow in wisdom, humility, and a greater love for Him and one another.
Truly being a good listener to our young people is a skill that may not come naturally. As mothers, we tend to want to give advice. There are excellent times for advice and wise words, but we can miss wonderful opportunities just to listen. I have known some mothers who are very talented listeners. For many teens, listening to what they have to say translates that you respect and think highly of them. Nobody wants to be looked down upon. Rather, they need to hear from us what God has done and is doing within them right now. Think about the fruit of the Spirit, for example, and start listing things we can tell them from our observations. They would be encouraged to hear anything we have noticed that is positive. Our children need correction, but encouragement goes a long ways. When an adult is asked to name a teacher they appreciated the most while growing up, it is almost always someone who noticed their strengths and encouraged them accordingly.
We are very thankful for the interest our youth have in spiritual things. It is a blessing to listen to them contribute in Bible studies, young people’s and young adult discussions, to read articles they write, or hear them talk with others from church in a way that shows genuine interest and kindness. When we see them having devotions on their own without being told, seeking to live according to the Scriptures, our cup runneth over.
Something in the news caught my attention recently, of which you may have heard. What started as a routine college chapel service in Kentucky on February 8 grew into an enormous, continuous impromptu gathering with singing and praying around the clock for days. Visitors from across the U.S. and even from foreign countries traveled to the college to see it for themselves. At times the line into the auditorium was two miles long in freezing temperatures. People wanted to hear what these young people had to say.
Such spontaneous meetings are not foreign to Wesleyan-Holiness theology in which Asbury University has its roots. Though there are dangers associated with revivalism and some modern forms of worship, it serves to illustrate some aspects regarding youth. Many youth are lonely, desiring to be a part of a group. This can leave them vulnerable. It has been said by some who have left the gay community after their conversion to Christianity that they still missed the feeling they formerly had of belonging to a close group of people. This is an area in which the church can improve. The church should be that close group of people. We view one another as the family of God, but we must remember to live like it. This includes talking with and encouraging one another, visiting together in our homes, going out together, truly communing with the saints. Today there are many youth sitting at home alone. The only socializing that they are doing is scrolling on social media. There is nothing more lonely than that. Our youth are in real danger if this is a significant pattern.
The students from Asbury University who were interviewed or who posted on social media seemed visibly excited to talk about their faith in Christ. How can we not be thankful for a young person who shares his or her joy in turning from sin toward God? Surely, it warms our heart when we hear what our own young people have to say about their faith, especially when our quiet and reserved children speak. Do we not desire that they freely communicate the hope that lies within them with those who will listen?
There is something about youthful zeal that is especially invigorating and contagious. They tend to have an excitement that lacks fear, an enthusiasm, an eagerness to witness to others, and a curiosity that they should never lose. During the time of Zerubbabel in the book of Ezra the youth stood out in their hearty rejoicing in the work of the Lord.
Faithful Zerubbabel led the first group of captives out of Babylon back to Judea. The people returned to a wasteland and had the enormous task of rebuilding. They had many obstacles and hos- tile neighbors, but the Lord was with them. In time they completed the foundation of the new temple. This was a momentous occasion as they gathered to sing and praise God for His mercy. The younger ones shouted with shouts of great joy from the tops of their lungs. Their thankfulness for what the Lord was doing in their lives could not be contained.
We can be guilty of discouraging our youth at times with our negative, pessimistic comments, especially when they have new ideas. Youth are good at thinking of new ideas, and just because it is new does not mean it cannot be considered. We do not want our children to be discouraged (Col. 3:21). Our youth will have many trials in life. May we remember to direct their attention to what God is doing and how amazing He is. He is always with us, listening to our prayers, and teaching us in His Word.
We are thankful for our older generation who have so much love and wisdom. The older certainly benefit the younger. They help the youth direct their zeal in the proper direction, encourage, and instruct from Scripture. No matter our age, we are all sinners constantly in need of God’s grace and Holy Spirit. As different parts of Christ’s body, we need each other’s fellowship and desire to know others really care.
Our young people are blessed with many years of catechism instruction. Lord’s Day 23 says something very appropriate for a young person who might forget the big picture of why he or she needs to study and memorize the Scriptures so much. It helps direct the young person in a moment of weakness and frustration who might ask, “Why do I need to know all of this?” Question 59 phrases it this way: “But what doth it profit thee now that thou believest all this? Answer: That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life.” That answer is a lifetime of motivation right there. So when we encourage them, we are to lead by our example, too. It is good for them to see our own desire to study the Word and to grow spiritually.
They need to see our zeal for praying for more men to train for the ministry, too. Our need for more men is great. Are we encouraging our sons to consider this high calling? Some might think they are too weak a means to pursue the ministry. The fact is, everyone is a weak means. The power is not the person who speaks but in the message itself. A mother recently shared with me that she told her little girl not to sleep in church because Jesus is speaking to her. With wide eyes her daughter said in utter surprise, “I didn’t know that!” How stunning for all of us to contemplate the awesome blessing of Christ speaking to us through the preaching. May we hang onto that youthful amazement.
Our need is great for more Christian school teachers also. What a blessing our schools are for our children. It can get discouraging when we have difficulty filling teacher positions. May we encourage our youth to aspire to this important vocation as well.
Whether our youth are called to the ministry or teaching, all of our children are prophets who are called to bear witness to the truth. The Lord has given them many gifts. May we guide their youthful zeal, and appreciate their enthusiasm and curiosity. May we continue to be good listeners and encouragers for them, praying for the grace as those who have hope in Christ.