I am old, at least that is what the local teenager tells me. In my earliest days of youth ministry, I could easily skip my way past the generation gap. I was married, but I did not have kids, so I was seemingly closer in age and more relatable to a teenager. But now I am just plain old compared to these youngsters.
I will not lie to you; it hurt the first time a teenager in my youth ministry made fun of me for my age. I was a newly married twenty-five-year-old, and one of my students said I looked like I was a forty-five-year-old. That strangely stung. I told the teen that I have a great eye doctor, and they should call him because he is taking new patients right now. We laughed, and then I told them to get off my lawn and go home.
If you are any older than me (I am 28 years old), you know what it feels like to deal with the youths. I have seen grandparents force-feed the Bible onto a rebellious teenager. The other side of the coin is the parent who has no idea of how to communicate with their teenager, let alone discuss the Bible. I have personally seen the glazed, apathetic, bored look in a teenager’s eyes countless times.
So how do we connect God’s Word with a new generation? If the Gospel of Jesus is the most eternally significant message, then how do we communicate that message to teenagers effectively? My goal is to give you a couple of simple steps to connect God’s Word more clearly with the teenager in your life.
Many adults assume that how they grew up in school, at home, and in church is what teenagers are experiencing today. Many other adults believe they know their teenager, when they are only remembering a memory of that child. Both ditches will hinder you from connecting God’s Word to your teenager’s life. You must know your audience and their environment to bond God’s Word well into their soul.
Ruling your pride must be the first objective in connecting with a teenager. You know more about life than a teenager, but you do not know what it is like to grow up in 2023. Think about the world a teenager is experiencing: Constant screen time on phones, pornography use at an all-time high, national unrest, skyrocketing divorce, anxiety in a post-COVID world, and friends with changing sexuality and gender identities. You and I are old, and we did not grow up the exact same as these teenagers.
Now, this does not mean understanding a teenager’s world is the definitive answer to all your problems. But it hopefully will make us stop and think, “My best friend in middle school didn’t start wearing a dress and changing pronouns. That would be challenging to navigate.” Think about that crazy news story that shocked you in the past year: That is the same world a teenager lives in every day and knows nothing else. Nevertheless, Christ is still Lord even if we feel like we are on different planetary systems.
Teenagers are experiencing all the filth of this world in real time. For some, it is all they have ever known, which means that more than ever, teenagers need Christ and His Word. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect God’s Word because you were a teenager 30-40 years ago and have just assumed the world kept on spinning like normal.
The opportunity to connect God’s Word with a teenager has never been more possible if you are willing to get to know the wasteland a teenager lives in. When you grasp the ecosystem, more opportunities will develop to share God’s Word. There are three parts to the ecosystem of the younger generation’s world: The first part is that teenagers are poor readers. Chalk it up to technology or bad education systems, but most students have a challenging time reading. So, start slow and help them grow into a hungering for God’s Word. Read with them and read the Bible to them. Find some creative ways to help a student desire God’s Word like reading practical Christian authors and discussing life on a camping trip. Or take them to a conference with great preaching and make some great experiences. Doctors don’t give medicine all in one dose, and neither should you with God’s Word.
The second part of their ecosystem is a culture of determination to succeed. Barna Group has some interesting data on this front, but what it really means is that teenagers today want to be successful. This is a great characteristic of the younger generation. Many teenagers see success as financial independence. For instance, many have gone to YouTube or social media to make money because it is their skill that is financially isolating them from outside failures. They want to succeed, but teenagers need God’s Word to shape their view of the world and success. What a fantastic opportunity to gently shape what a teenager views as success by giving them your wisdom and God’s Word. Show a teenager that loving God does not mean you have to give up financial success, but in fact the opposite. God calls the Christian to work hard and be wise with his money, so that he can be generous and a blessing to others. Invite godly and successful mentors into your teenager’s life to disciple them towards biblical success. Connecting God’s Word to a teenager takes wisdom in finding the right avenue to their heart.
The last part of the ecosystem is a constant cloud of fear. Most teenagers are living in dread of the future. You would be wise to assume the teenager in your life is struggling at times with anxiety of some sort. Some will snub the fear with arrogance and worldly living. Regardless, all teenagers are exploring the world, and what better way to show them real comfort than with God’s Word. This is the greatest opportunity to connecting God’s Word with a teenager because of the lack of hope their world offers.
For instance, Psalm 23 describes the Lord as the believer’s Shepherd who cares for us, guides us, protects, and feeds us. The teenage wasteland has nothing close to this eternal hope. When God’s Word is rightly communicated with a student, it can change their entire world, and give new life. There is no hope, security, or comfort in this world. So, give them Christ and show them how God’s Word offers hope, security, and comfort in the midst of their pain. Taking the time to investigate and ask great questions about a teenager’s life is vital. Then slowly show them how God comforts and eases our fears. Your primary goal should be to love the teenager, and when the door opens you can practically apply God’s Word to their life.
God’s Word is what teenagers desperately need today, and you are called to share Christ with those teenagers. Take the time and effort to develop a strong and open relationship with your teenager. Only then will you be able to connect God’s Word practically to a teenager’s life and hearts.