Have you ever wondered how a teen thinks or what makes them seem irrational? Why do they act before they think? What about the idea that, "bad things don’t happen to me; only to other people." They are forgetful, disorganized, emotionally charged and take lots of risks thinking they are bullet proof, what's with that?
Is there any good explanation for all this? YOU BET! There is actually a scientific reason. I recognize that there are huge environmental issues that may positively or negatively affect the way a teen thinks. But consider the development of the brain. The ability to express and interaction with emotions is developed between the ages of 11 and 14. What is the significance of this?
Well very little until you consider that the ability to use reason above emotion is not fully developed until the late teens or early twenties. This means the typical teen acts and reacts based on their emotions. This is why having a certain pair of shoes is more of a "life or death" matter than jumping off a 40 foot high bridge into a small river. Sometimes fear may sway the decision to watch and not jump but not usually, at least for me. Get the idea? There may be some reasoning but it is normal for the emotions of a teenager, not the intelligence to drive their actions and decisions.
In regards to teen discipleship this is very important to keep in mind. Scratch that, it is essential that you keep it in mind. Discipling a teen using Spurgeon' s lectures may not be a bad idea if they are an exceptional student who has a very strong reformed back ground but not for the vast majority of teens. Basically if the material is more than a hundred years old work up to it, slowly. Rather, be Practical, spend time doing life. Take them to a ball game and have conversations that are charged with biblical significance. Minister with them! Take them and work at a ministry for a day.
The idea is to be an example in all areas. So much of an example that you verbalize that you are a good example to follow. The teen may have thought this already but it is good to reinforce the idea. This is the hardest part of teen discipleship , living up to what you want them to be, Godly. How does the development of emotions come into play? When you are being watched by someone trying to figure out what the right response is to any given situation what so they see, your response. Your teen is not reading your mind so they can't follow your reasoning, if they could understand it.
As a parent or youth worker you can either take this emotional potential and ruin it by putting them in exciting youth programs that are centered on games, massive activities, and dynamic speakers or you can invest in their emotional potential. As we all know if an investment is to pay off in the end it must be given time. Take time to funnel the teen to make emotional connections to the things of God. Teach them to love the church, to love the scriptures, to love Christ. Do I need to say that again? Take time to instill in them BY EXAMPLE a love for the things of God not for the things of the latest cool pop culture.
So the implications for a parent or youth worker is that you will need to be expressive and excited about God, about Church, and about ministry. No don't go running and clapping into the Church every Sunday, but have a serious conviction about the importance of church and be consistent in that living it and they will live it. Take missions seriously and they will take it seriously. Take God seriously and they will take God seriously. Be emotionally attached to your faith and they will be emotionally attached to theirs. But to make this happen you have to invest not only your time but your emotions as well.