3 Ways to Feed the Souls of Teenagers and Emerging Adults

The following is an excerpt from Kim Kurtz’s upcoming book, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation.

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Pouring in is probing. Pouring in is listening. Pouring in is seeking to know our kids at a soul level. It is searching for the child of God that is in each one of our kids.

In addition to being loved, three of the greatest longings of the human soul are to be seen, heard and known. It is no different for our kids, whether they are five, fifteen, or twenty five.

1) The human soul longs to be SEEN. God sees us.

Whether it is in the joys and the celebrations of the soul, or in the difficult times of life, we all long to be seen. This desire makes us human and unites us all.

I recently watched the movie, Hidden Figures, about African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA in 1961. They were “computers” before there were computers. Three in particular were pivotal to the space program, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.

At the time, however, segregation was still very much a part of American society. What must it have felt like to be these brilliant woman and not be seen? Or, not be recognized for their contributions?

Every human being longs to be seen. God made us that way and He sees us.

Or in the movie, Avatar, the Na’vi people who inhabit the alien world of Pandora, say “I see you” instead of “I love you.” This shows the power of being seen. Being seen is equated with love.

There are many names of God, however, the most beautiful to me is El Roi, The God who Sees.

This is illustrated in the story in Genesis where Sarai couldn’t conceive a child and in desperation, offers, Hagar, her slave, to her husband, Abram.

What ensues is a mess, which is usually what happens when we take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God.

Sarai mistreats Hagar, so she flees. And God finds her beside a desert spring.

After a conversation with God, Hagar calls Him, El Roi, The God Who sees. She was the only person in scripture to give God a name.

He sees me, and He sees you.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

We need to make an effort to really see our teenagers and young people in the church and the community. They are beautiful souls made in the image of God.

Young people . . . don’t want to sit passively on the sidelines but are drawn to churches and leaders who help them get in the game.
—Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, Growing Young

 

2) The human soul longs to be HEARD. God hears us.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them.  Psalm 34:17

I was with a friend recently who had just been to at a family reunion. She teared up when she told me that she often spends days with her family without anyone asking her what is going on in her life. She said “Not being heard crushes your soul.”

According to writer and speaker, Steven Argue, who has a PhD from Michigan State University and is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute, the three most important words to use with our children and youth in general, are “Tell me more.”

I think we need to remember as parents that the first question isn’t as important as the second or third question. A first question usually comes from our own agenda—we want information, clarity, or context. Second and third questions are responsive questions that emerge from the conversation. They show our kids how well we’re listening and really seeking to understand, rather than just interrogate. . . . Maybe for us, “Tell me more” is more of a posture than a solo question!

We must hear our kids. This means not just listening, but hearing and sometimes probing. We must turn off our devices, or the TV when our kids are talking to us. They deserve our time and undivided attention. This is how we feed their soul.

And young people must be heard in our churches.

3) The human soul longs to be KNOWN. God knows us.

The human soul longs to be known. Known to our bones. We want someone to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of who we are and still love us.

We don’t have to hide with God, because he knows us intimately.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5

Being truly known, loved, and accepted is what we all long for.  —David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Good Faith, Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Being Irrelevant and Extreme

Do we take the time to really know our kids? Do we seek to know our teenagers? Do we desire to know the young people at our churches? Or, do we dismiss them because they are young?


Pouring into our kids requires that we see them. It requires that we hear them. And it requires that we seek to really know them. These are the things that will feed their soul, and cause them to be open to the gospel.

Look for Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation in bookstores this fall.

3 Things We Told Our Teenager When She Got Her Driver’s License

My daughter recently got her driver’s license. For me, this milestone in parenting has been about as much fun as potty training. It’s been nerve racking, stressful, and sometimes has caused contention between my daughter and I.

My husband once told me about a boss he had who gave his kids a brand new car at sixteen and said “here, go do your stuff.” In other words he was tired of driving them everywhere.

I’m sure he wasn’t quite so callous when he said it. And, I get it—driving our kids around is exhausting. I have two teenagers who always want to go somewhere. The requests are endless. And it feels like you live in your car.

So it is tempting to let your kids get their driver’s license without giving it much thought. That is what we did with our oldest daughter.

However, I realized something. As parents, we do not owe our kids a driver’s license simply because they turn sixteen. As far as teenagers go, driving is a privilege, not a right. And many factors play into the decision of whether kids should get a driver’s license or not.

As long as teenagers live in their parents’ home, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Looking back, I wish I would have slowed things down a bit and thought things through. I wish I would have thought about what I could leverage for the privilege of driving our car. Car keys are a great leveraging tool. And, oh, the lessons that come with car keys!

Here are three things we told our daughter when she got her driver’s license.

1. If you want the privilege of driving our car, you are expected to go to church and youth group.

When our kids are practically adults (16 or 17), it is often no longer productive to force them to go to church. Teenagers often become resentful if they are forced to go. And, at this age, they must start taking ownership of their faith.

Telling them that driving the car and going to church go hand in hand might alleviate stress on Sunday mornings. If they choose not to go to church, than they choose not to drive the car that week. But the main point is, it’s their choice.

Teenagers feel more empowered if they are given choices. If they can choose whether they go to church or not, it is more likely to be a positive, not a negative.

2. If you drive to school with a car we have provided, you will drive your siblings as well.

It seems like my oldest daughter wants everything to be perfectly “fair” between her and her sister. And it isn’t “fair” that her younger sister doesn’t have to ride the bus as a freshmen like she did. Therefore, she didn’t want to give her a ride.

What a perfect time to dispel the “everything has to be fair” myth. Life isn’t fair. The earlier our kids learn that, the better off they will be. Maturity is accepting life as it is, which is less than ideal.

As long as we have provided a car to drive to school, she is not going to leave the house without her sister. Especially since they go to the same school.

3. You will obey ALL of the laws regardless of how stupid you think they are.

When my daughter got her driver’s license, we learned that there are a lot of probationary restrictions right off the bat. In Indiana, teenagers can’t drive with anyone other than their family members for the first six months. They also have curfew. And they aren’t allowed to use a device, such as a phone, in the car.

My daughter complained about these rules saying, “that’s dumb,” or “nobody else cares about that rule.” With this attitude came a lot of teaching moments.

In this country, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws we follow. We are expected to follow all of them or face the the consequences. If my daughter is pulled over, a cop will never say, “Oh, you think that law is dumb, OK, then you can go.” Or, “Oh, you’re right, no one else pays attention to that law, never mind then.” Cops don’t care if you like or agree with any law, they only care if you break it.

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that once their kids are sixteen, they have the right to drive a car. Driving, for teenagers, is a privilege. Parents can leverage it, and use it in positive ways to reinforce mature behavior.