Interaction, Connection, Anonymity
So I went to a pageant tonight. If you are a new reader you may not understand how much I loathe these things so you may not know what a big deal it was for me to go. But one of the girls who is on our creative arts lead team was in it, and she has done a million things in support of my stuff so I thought I would go and support her. It was brutal, but she was beautiful. Anyway, that isn’t what I am talking about you will have to dig through the archives to find pageant rants.
So if you want to read some of the things that I learned keep reading after the jump.
What I want to examine is this desire that teenagers have to yell outthe names of their friends who are on stage. I think it goes beyondjust support. It almost seems like these teens have a deep desire toyell out. Even after they were asked to simply applaud the screams of"We love you Jaclyn" didn’t stop. I have a theory as to why thishappens, and bear with me but I think it has something to do with youthministry. (I am discounting the theory that this occurs because no onein our city has any class because I have discussed that in an earlierpost and I think this is more informative)
1. Teenagers want to be involved
You don’t have to be around teenagers for very long to know that theywant to have a part in what is going on. We live in an interactiveworld, and there is nothing in their world anymore that simply involvesthem sitting and listening. With the exception of movies (and mostteens are talking back to the screen) everything else in their livesinvites them to be a part.
2. Teenager are desperate to be noticed.
Even the teenagers who are too scared to be on stage (I would be thatway) are desperate to connect with someone who is on stage. They lovecelebrity of any sort because they long to be noticed, to be seen, tobe someone. They love to yell things out because they want to benoticed like the people on stage. They want people to turn and seethem.
3. Teenagers want to blend in
What separates the people in the seats from the people on stage is thatthe yellers want to be seen, but they don’t want to stand out. Theywant to be heard, but not be alone. There are very few teenagers whoare willing to stand out and be originals, and most of them are justdoing it because they are trying to get people to like them and beingoriginal (or funny, or wacky) is just their act. I heard to girlsbehind be going, "yell with me," and then counting down to when theywould yell. It is that desire to be seen, but not stand out that is soteenager.
4. Friends are more important to teenagers than air
This goes beyond just the yelling thing, but as you watch girls sittingin the audience actually crying because their friend did or didn’t winyou see the depth of the connection that these teens have with theirfriends. Friends are the most important thing to a teenager. If therich young ruler was a teenager in today’s world Jesus would say tohim, "leave the friends you have and go and be friends with the lonely"and not only would he walk away sad, most people would agree with him.
So what can we learn?
It is important to give students ways to interact with what we are doing. I have found that any more than 10 minutes of "preaching" without some sort of way for them to interact is the extent of their attention span. If you are telling personal stories or performing something that attention span grows, but not by much. We must give them ways to interact with every aspect of our worship gatherings.
Student need safe ways to show their talents and to be noticed. One of the things that I find works well is to do skits that don’t involve any practice, but just have people messing around on stage (check out the audience participation stuff like spontaneous melodramas) We need to find ways to help them learn about who they are, and find out what makes them unique and help them to gradually celebrate that instead of trying to hide it.
For me the best thing I can see to help with that is praise, praise, praise. We need to constantly remind students of the gifts that God has given them. We should be our student biggest cheerleaders and should be continually giving them safe places to try out a number of places of ministry until they find what they are uniquely created to do.
As for helping them to find their strength in God and not in their friends that is something I haven’t figured out yet.