March 7, 2012 — 16 Comments

I’ve never felt more passionate about loving students than I do today.  This is a call I’ve given a good portion of my life to. There is something that I can’t walk away from when it comes to the transformation of a typical teen into an aware teen. Typical teens will figure out how to get through each day- there may be no victories, no failures, but they’ve mastered the art of getting from one day to the next. An aware teen will take notice of the day. An aware teen will recognize the opportunities that a day brings, even through disappointment. An aware teen doesn’t just get through a day but notices and responds to hurt, anger, kindness, mercy, hope, danger, need, disappointment, victory, failure, self, others, and God. Awareness brings about transformation that allows us to see the hearts of teens shaped by God.

So, how can we participate in the transformation of teens?

1. PRAY for students by name.

This may sound cheesy, but I think it all the time to myself, “never underestimate the power of a single prayer.” We cannot stand on two feet and watch as teen culture swallows the teens we interact with. Let your compassion for teens force you to your knees in prayer. Years ago many of the teens in a group I was leading were struggling with the use of drugs. I worried, I had meetings, I confronted them then I prayed. I should have started with prayer. I remember printing their first names in huge font, cutting them out, and taping them all over my office walls. I would get on my knees and pray for each of them by name. One by one these students became “aware of their problem” and “aware of their need for help.” That was an answer to prayer. Plan your lessons, go on trips, go to games, but for goodness sakes, pray for teens by name.

2. SERVE their needs.

Being a good and memorable youth leader can be easily accomplished.  But witnessing the transforming power of the love of God in your students requires more than facilitating logistics and creating memories. We are called to discover and serve the needs of students. I used to buzz on the success of smiling, laughing, participating groups of teens. There was a mountain top experience with every well-planned youth trip. But then something happened. My youth leaders and I started talking to individual teens. We had a hit list. We listed students by name and assigned them to a leader. Their names were not scratched off the list until an adult had one on one time with them to gauge their needs and how we could serve them. We did this over and over again. Soon our team was sharing the needs of each student; needs we had been completely oblivious to. I guess we figured if they had a need they knew they could come talk to us, we were making them take the initiative. Once we learned to take the initiative, and began discovering the needs of each individual students, then we could serve with new meaning and purpose. We found over and over again, that with in our happy group of students existed depression, abandonment, hurt over divorce, worry over finances, uncertainty about the future, sexually addiction, and more. We now knew how we could serve. If a family needed a car, we knew about it. If a student needed counseling we knew about it. If a student needed affirmation, we knew about it, and we started to serve our teens.

3. INFLUENCE by modeling godly lifestyle and character.

Nothing is more powerful than the godly influence a loving adult can have on a teen. We must take inventory on what kind of influence we have and what kind of influence the members of our team have. What is on display, patience, kindness, love, grace, balance, health, generosity, and honesty?  Or bitterness, frustration, tiredness, chaos, and dishonesty? Teens won’t walk away from an imperfect leaders, but they will be influenced either way. The life you model for your students will be the biggest lesson they retain. They will forget all about your presentation during summer retreat, but they won’t forget that you were kind, patient, or forgiving.

How will you participate in the transformation of teens today, through prayer, service, influence, or all of the above?

Let me know in the comments!
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  • Hneimanart

    I look forward to reading your wisdom! I have started helping with middle schoolers since confirmation. This is the first time in my life I feel truly equipped to be available! Your writing and PRAYER will help me remember that God is where my strength comes from.

    • Theresa Mazza

       That is just awesome Heather.  I’m so glad to here that you are working with middle schoolers.  You have so much to offer. 

  • Kristie

    Theresa you caught on early to what teens really need from us. They need us and our dedication not just empty words  and hugs. They’re hungry for the truth, something or someone real and steadfast. You’re words today feed that fire in me to see the youth of our church cared for and fed to the best of our ability even more. We’re all able to pray and genuinely love on our teens. I’m sending this out to our leaders to check out. Thanks sis!! 

    • Theresa Mazza

       Yes, we can all pray.  And I’ll be praying for you, your leaders, and your teens at hello youth!

  • Big B

    You da best!!!!!

    • Theresa Mazza

       Thanks for the encouragement BIG B! 

      • Big B

        One thing though…you spelled ‘patience’ wrong in the Influence paragraph. Man, I miss working with you! LOL

  • Darcymaher123

    This is great T. And I am living proof that what you’re talking about here is truth. You have influenced me so much just through the way you live, besides your words of wisdom and affirmation during the hardest parts of growing up (Us as middle schoolers? Oh come on, that’s enough to make anyone impatient!) love you and this is great, subscribing now!

    • Theresa Mazza

       Good to see you here Darcy.  And I love you.

  • Deanna

    Great advice on here, Theresa.  Hope you will be blogging often.  Look forward to gleaning from your experience.

    • Theresa Mazza

       Deanna I hope to blog at least twice a week.  I’ll be guest blogging at on friday.  Look for me!

  • Michaelle Cearley

    such great advice!! when are we gonna get you up here to speak at FUSION YOUTH CHURCH ! 🙂

    • Theresa Mazza

       Any time.  I’d love that Michaelle.

  • Kathy

    The power of a single prayer brings deliverance, healing, forgiveness, joy, strength…the list could go on and on. Thank you Theresa!

    • Theresa Mazza

       Great list!  Thank you Kathy.

  • Velocitynhu

    Good stuff . Thank you.