Can you hear them? They're calling out to you. Do you see them? They're on the streets, in the buses, in our schools, in our malls, on the internet, and yes in our churches. Youth desire meaningful relationships with adults as they seek to navigate life and grow into whom God made them to be. So often youth invite us into their lives to listen to their experiences and feel with them the pain and joy of the adolescent years. Do we even hear them? They are looking for people who will accept them as they are and not turn away when they make questionable choices; not reject them when they lose their way. Will you stand with them? Will you hear them and reach out your hand?
In his book, Hear my Story: Understanding the Cries of Troubled Youth, Dean Borgman notes that, "For too long the adult world has ignored the voices of the young" (Borgman 2003, 12). In other words, adults have not paid attention to young people and what they are saying. In Hear my Story, Borgman uses stories by and about teens as well as relevant research to help us better understand the world of "troubled youth." His insightful approach and recommendations can help us youth workers/ministers better hear the young people around us. Here are some steps he sees included in youth ministry:
~~attracting young people to a safe place
~~providing young people with caring mentors
~~enabling young people to hear someone else's story
~~empowering young people to tell their stories and be affirmed
~~sharing the story of God's love (Borgman 2003, 12)
This speaks of making space for youth in our lives as we carve out a place where they can know that they are safe, have adults who will invest in and attend to them, help them to see beyond themselves and hear others, give them agency and affirmation so that they can tell what is happening with themselves, and engage them in God's love story.
Can we do this? Can we be the ear and support that will enable our young people to grow into their God-intended fullness?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor