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Monday, June 12, 2023

Eight Key Factors: Raising Teens to Adulthood

by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS

There are eight components of youth ministry.  These key areas have been identified by experts as essential for helping teens become successful adults. I adapted them to college prep (and parenting in general).

1. Advocacy. We adults (parents, coaches, teachers, ministers, college consultants, etc.) advocate for youth, that they be respected and their needs met. We also teach them how to advocate for themselves. Identifying situations wherein young people can step up and speak for themselves, ask for what they need, guide others, etc. are skills that we can teach teens. As a college consultant, I regularly do this, then help them identify the action steps, plan how to take those steps, and accompany them as they take those steps. I also hold them accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. 

2. Catechesis. In the Church, we teach young people what we believe and the ethical and moral implications of those beliefs. This is true in all areas of life, whether we (and/or our youth) are people of faith or not. Young people need to learn what is right (customary and lawful) and wrong. They need to learn what is expected of them as students, scholars, and citizens.

3. Community Life. Connecting teens with one another is essential. During the pandemic lockdowns, interpersonal connections (and the ability to form and maintain them) were fractured. The climate, full of indirect, electronic means of communication, has also hampered the development of interpersonal skills. This area is critically important to maturation and the development of rich lifelong relationships, personal and professional. Let's all do everything we can to mentor the young people we know and teach them how to have good interpersonal interactions, friendships, and collaborations. Opportunities to demonstrate and teach conflict resolution, foster group activities (from playing board and outdoor games to building and creating), and the like need to be identified, encouraged, and our youth supported. Whether they can articulate it or not, they are keenly aware of their weakness in these skill areas.

4. Evangelization. As a Christian, introducing others to Christ is central to my life. As a college consultant, encouraging young people to value education, set goals, believe in themselves are key endeavors. Instilling the joy and enthusiasm about things that makes a person want to tell everyone about it, this is an important task. Finding a field of study or endeavor that makes our heart sing is an example of this in the college prep part of life.

5. Justice and Service. Justice is moral rightness, it is the just treatment of all members of society. In this aspect, young people must be treated justly, being afforded opportunities to grow and contribute to the work of society and the welfare of their communities, at school, home, and in their churches and neighborhoods. Service is part of how we love one another. Service teaches the one who serves how to use one's strengths to help another. It can also afford a person the opportunity to develop new skills, be they skills like kindness patience or technical skills, etc. Service, then, positively impacts both the person who serves as well as the person who is served.

6. Leadership development. First one needs to learn how to lead oneself. Getting to bed at a reasonable time, awaken oneself and prepare for the day in a timely fashion, care for one's clothing, room, and belongings, these are leadership skills our teens need to start with. Once basic self-leadership is mastered, then leadership of others can happen. Some teens, of course, develop both sets of leadership skills simultaneously. Fostering opportunities to lead is an important part of working with teens. Helping them create visions, plan events, run meetings, resolve conflicts, troubleshoot problems, learn to communicate effectively, all of these are key endeavors to undertake with teens.

7. Pastoral Care. This is another area which is very much needed. Another name for it is accompaniment. People need to be cared for, to have people walk through life with them, to celebrate joyful moments and encourage them through the rough times. Everyone needs someone to listen to them from time to time. Even introverts benefit from companionship (even if it is silent). Let's take time to be present with our teens, in person whenever possible.

8. Prayer and Worship. We are not the creators of everything. We are not the be all and end all of the universe. Fundamentally, instilling a regular practice of gratitude is helpful. Fostering the sense of awe is also helpful. It can be easy to take things for granted. Taking time to notice the beauty of a sunset or flower or garment, etc. helps us retain a sense of awe. It's important that we retain our human sense of wonder; life is much richer when we notice the incredible gifts bestowed upon us, from our very lives, to ladybugs, to wondrous music, and beyond.

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