Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I received an interesting link the other day from a colleague here in Worthington. Part of me thinks I received this link because she read my blog about Abstinence Only classes, but also we’re both members of the Worthington Area Youth Ministry Association, which teaches part of a lesson in the High School and Middle School sex education class. Maybe it wasn’t just a friendly prod.

Anyways, the full article is here. And actually, nothing about the sex/abstinence aspect of this article really struck me given the source. But the parts that did strike me, are the parts where they talk about a teenager’s development. More specifically the female teenager’s development:

Georgene: You mentioned that students are being told they have certain rights that relate to their sexuality. One of the things that they’re not taught is what neurobiologists are now saying about the brains of young people. The presumption has been that they’re fully capable—that they’re really just little adults—and they have the capacity to think through the implications and consequences of their actions when, in fact, neurobiologists are telling us otherwise.

Grossman: Absolutely correct. Parents and kids need to be made aware that this is not happening in sex education because it goes against their agenda of sexual freedom. The biological truth is that the teen brain is immature—in particular, that area of the brain that makes rational decisions. It will take until they are well into their 20s for that area of the brain to fully mature. So teens more than ever need the guidance and the rules that adults will place before them. In my research, I found that rental car companies and auto insurance companies have known this for years. Auto insurance rates go down after the age of 25, and you can’t rent a car unless you are at least 25, and this simply reflects the common-sense wisdom that younger people do tend to make irrational decisions, especially when they are in highly stimulating situations.

Now, I’m not disputing Dr. Grossman’s claims, or that she’s wrong (she is the Ph. D., I’m not). But I DO find it a little confusing when we hear reports of the adolescent longevity stretching to age 28, but then read books that talk about the origins of the terms “Adolescence” and “Teenager”.  We are left to believe that the whole ideal and understanding around these terms is some sort of social pigeon hole, which only leads to low standards. So we think, “Okay, treat them like adults. It’s how it was done 100 years ago.” But then we get studies like Dr. Grossman’s and we are led to believe that, “They’re not mentally capable of adult responsibility, treat them differently.”

But there’s also more questions; could it be that the adolescent brain doesn’t develop as fast because the youth generation is only challenged by low expectations? Could it be that the mere act of labeling a person a “Teen” or “Adolescent” gives us a reason to treat them differently and not hold them to high expectations; thus ultimately delaying neurobiological development? Could it be that our society has systematically and passively set our teenage generations up for failure due to how adults treat them?

If 100 years ago people were considered adults based on how they looked, given full family responsibility, and didn’t end up crazy head cases, then what happened between then and now? What’s different? It would seem to point to the lowering of expectations, which causes delayed development.

So my question is: how do we approach our youth with the understanding that they are not mentally developed to handle adult-sized responsibility without lowering and limiting our expectations? Or maybe they ARE capable of handling adult-sized responsibility and it’s up to us adults to guide them through it. Please discuss, let’s shoot for more than 5 comments!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Tank's on E...Must...Kiss...Baby...

Last Wednesday was a desperately exhausting day. It started out like any Wednesday—checking Facebook, personal email, work email... and then BAM! I received an email from saying that they wanted to publish some of my blog posts on their website (which I think is largely due to Brian down in Missouri, thank you). Wow...wasn't expecting that one.

Ok, so now I have to go through the day with this big news, trying to stay focused on what I have to get done— preparation for various church meetings, a Middle School Kick off, and an area youth gathering. For each thing I'm preparing, I get about 75-80% comfortable with where I'm at. However, they all come through and things work out in the end… like they always do. I get home around 11pm, and I collapse on the couch with my daughter in my arms for the first time of the day. Then I realize something—a change in my life and focus.

If you would have asked me four months ago what I looked forward to throughout the week, I would have said something like, "I love spending time with my wife, but hanging with youth is a lot of fun. I look forward to lunch and Halo with my youth each week."

Now this sounds kind of bad, but I'll admit there were times when I would choose the youth over my wife. It just so happened that she would work a lot, so it gave me more time with the youth. But over the course of the last few months, I have re-evaluated what's important to me. Yes, youth ministry is important to me. Yes, I will be available to youth. Yes, I will continue to be relevant and authentic to the youth. But, no, I will NOT choose youth over my family anymore.

I went to a lot of chapels when I was at Oak Hills Christian College. I heard a lot of messages and teachings, but the only one I remember explicitly is when the then-president Dan Clausen talked about priorities in ministry. The statement that was cemented in my mind was the story of when he started in his first church. The church was excited to have him, and they were encouraged by the great things they could do together. After the welcoming service, one of the elders in the church came up to him, pulled him aside and said, "You know, there's going to come a time where you're going to have to decide between the church and your family, and the church has to win every time."

Now he thought it was bunk back then, and he said if he would have had the guts, he would have put this gentleman in his place. He didn’t, but for some reason this statement has always stuck with me. I can vividly remember Dr. Clausen saying it, so it must be important, right? RIGHT! But I’ve come to find out that it’s very easy to put work ahead of family.

Four months ago, I approached my schedule by planning things in between work and church. Now I plan things in between family time: my family takes precedence over work. Sure Wednesdays and Sundays will forever be big days for me as long as I'm in ministry, and my lovely darling Corrine understands that. But that gives me five other days to enjoy my family and with some work in between.

I'm no family counselor or expert, but maybe this has implications as to why adolescence can extend to age 28. Maybe because parents are choosing to work, and work, and work, and then be parents, our children are missing out on valuable life lessons. Maybe if we re-evaluated what's important to us (family instead of money), the developmental problems we see in our younger generations would more than likely tail off.

I think one of the biggest lies in our society is the ideal that, "I work 80 hours a week so my family can have anything they want." The only problem is that YOU'RE EVERTHING they want. Do you really think a $500,000 house, the new car, or the new whatever is actually what they want? They might say that, but in reality all they want is love from their mother or father. When we have this "80-hour" mindset, it just adds to the materialism within a family. They always want more because for a short period of time after they get a certain thing, they're happy...but then they don't feel the same about it. The enchantment wanes, and all of a sudden, they want the NEXT best thing. What does that mean? An extra couple hours at work to afford it and—TAH-DAH!—the cycle continues.

If we focus on loving our family (which just so happens to fall into Jesus’ Commandment 2 of 2), we are able to cultivate our relationships. We are able to grow in a deeper understanding of each other. The greater importance we place on family development as professionals, the better off we're going to be. Besides, in the end, we all end up in a hole... And who's going to be there? I can guarantee you your Geico money can't give the eulogy.

My $.02.