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Journeying with Reluctant Teenagers

As a High Schooler, I was a Youth Minister’s worst nightmare. I showed up to programming to check off the Confirmation requirements and then sneak out after they took roll. When I was there, I never paid attention, hoarded the snacks, and if I had a phone my freshman year of high school, I would have been on it. So, to say the least, I was not the star student when it came to youth ministry. Today, I’m a living testament to God’s sense of humor. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor by taking me, one of the most reluctant teenagers, and calling me to become a Youth Minister.

Because of my personal experience and stubbornness as a high schooler, I have a soft spot for those teenagers. These are the teens that often get looked over or are seen as hopeless. They are the ones that take a lot of energy, patience, and love. And just like any teen, they are the future of the Church and worth fighting for. Below are five tips to help you reach the more reluctant teenagers.

  1. Listen

  2. Any teen wants to be heard, but listening is easier said than done. When we listen, we are not just hearing them but really taking to heart what they are saying. Listening does not require you to have answers to questions or solutions. Teens are not always seeking answers; instead, they seek someone who cares enough to listen. Simple things like making eye contact, being present, or affirming what they are saying can show that you actively listen to them.

  3. Persistent Invitation

  4. When disciplining a reluctant teen, we must be persistent. You will hear nine “no’s” before hearing one “yes.” Keep asking, keep inviting, don’t give up on them. Invite them to bible studies, invite them to Life Nights, to retreats, to grab a cup of coffee. I always ask myself, “what’s the worse that can happen?” Maybe the worse is when a teen says no for the seventh time, but maybe, just maybe, this is the one time that they say “sure.”

  5. Meet them where they are at

  6. A more reluctant teen is not going to always be found on the church campus. More often than not, many of them can be found on the field, on the stage, on the court, in the studio, on the track. Wherever they are, meet them there. Discipling is not reserved for the physical church building. Discipling is meant to happen everywhere. By meeting them where they are at, you build relationships and, in turn, build trust. This trust will ultimately lead to them being more open to hearing about the Good News that you share with them.

  7. Authentic

  8. Be yourself. Teenagers have a talent for weeding out false things. A reluctant teen doesn’t need a viral Tik Tok star; they don’t need someone with a high Snap streak; they need you, just as you are. Your authenticity will lead them to the authentic love that Christ has to offer them.

  9. Prayer

  10. It is impossible to help teens form a prayer life if you don’t have one yourself. Prayer does not help your relationship with God; it is your relationship with God. Prayer should be the center of everything you do. During the difficult times when you feel like giving up or feel as if things said are going in one ear and out the other of a teen, remember that God has got them. I always have to remind myself that God is asking me to lead them to Him. He is the one who changes their hearts. We cannot do that, and at times we can get frustrated. We want to see the fruits of our labor, but we must trust that seeds are being planted and he will water them. Prayer centers us and reminds us that God’s plan is better than our own.

Coming from a previously reluctant teen, I want to thank you. Thank you for your patience, thank you for your kindness, and thank you for your relentless fight for Heaven. As a teen, I was naïve to those around me, leading me to Heaven, and I never got a chance to thank those people. So, for all those who you are leading, and you may never receive thanks, on their behalf, thank you.

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

About the Author

Kelly Simpson

Kelly is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Ann's in Marietta, Georgia. She attended the University of Alabama for two years and finished her undergrad at Georgia State. Upon graduation, she joined the St. Ann Life Teen Core team. There she fell in love with Christ and Youth Ministry. She's now been working at St. Ann’s for over nine years and is passionate about leading teens closer to Christ. Her love language is sarcasm and in her free time, you can find her cheering on the Crimson Tide and drinking coffee.

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