I love Stranger Things. I binge-watched it when it came out. I made jokes with my fiancée about how cute the kids in the show were and we laughed about the CGI monsters. Then, I promptly forgot about it (as one does until Season 2 comes back with a vengeance).
That was until the cast became A-List celebrities overnight and saw an absurd amount of media attention hoisted onto 13 year olds, the bulk of the attention being centered on Millie Bobby Brown’s personal life, style, and relationships (a term I use lightly as she is so young).
It suddenly seemed like I couldn’t escape the vicious discussion and life of Millie Bobby Brown and her relationship with Jacob Sartorius: it was posted all over twitter and Instagram as people everywhere discussed her shading him, or them kissing, or him cheating on her, or anything else.
Even worse, I was forced to see this fourteen year old in a backless dress on the carpet of the 2018 Golden Globes. My heart broke for her and the things we force our children into at young ages. I saw others taking to twitter and writing the “YAAAS, Queen!”s and the “Honestly, this is such a LOOK.”s and the criticisms, fervent and passionate and decrying how she could possibly respect herself after wearing such garb.
This article isn’t about Millie Bobby Brown and things our society has done to a fragile teenager. That’s probably a topic for about an 87-page thesis paper.
This article is about the issue about how if the chatter, the over-whelming nonsensical discussions, and the gossip that our media circus provides can drown me, a twenty-five year old with no particular interest in Millie Bobby Brown or her life, then, how much worse is it for our teens?
I see Youth Ministers (and I myself am guilty of this) take to social media in an effort to reach our teens outside of our designated nights. We try to get them hyped for events. We try to offer cute inspirational bible scriptures through filtered images that show grand landscapes. We even post pictures and stories about the Youth Office and the next Big Project.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Scrolling through my own twitter feed, through my own instagram, and my own tumblr, exhausts me. I’m exhausted by the noise, the chatter of every day life, things that I don’t even want to know being forced upon me. I’m tired of thinking that putting a LIKE or a pressing a heart on something somehow signals some type of solidarity with someone else.
I desire true connection. I desire something real.
I was made for so much more than this.
And so were our teens.
Youth Ministers, we are called to be better than this world. We are called to offer more. The best communication we can have with our teenagers isn’t through Snap Chat, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Tumblr. The best communication we can have with our teens is face to face.
Get off your social media and get into the parish! Here are some ways:
Offer service opportunities for other ministries
You know that Ladies group that consistently needs help with moving things from one location to the other? Or the Knights of Columbus at your parish that likely has a blood drive or a BBQ around the corner? Ask them what your teens can do for them. More often than not, teens want to help their community but don’t know how. As the youth minister, lead the charge and give them an opportunity for helping outside of youth ministry.
Do that activity the teens have been asking for. And MORE.
Have your teens been dying for a lock-in? A paintball night? Another round of messy games? Get some core members together and plan a couple of social nights. Begin and end with prayer, but more than anything, focus on the delightful young person your teen is becoming. Be more than their mentor. Be their friend. Be there. Youth nights are just the beginning of what can be a life-long relationship with your teen.
Discipleship, Discipleship, Discipleship
Everything is about the numbers; that’s what it feels like sometimes, anyways. So, when you start a program outside of your designated youth night, or outside of the amazing Diocesan or Catholic Camp week, it can be a fearful thing. Then, the anxiety speaks out against the ‘Tuesday, 10AM bible study in the middle of summer that costs nothing’ saying: “What if nobody comes? What if one person comes and it’s so lame?”
Our savior started off with 12 disciples. The Church is the Church you see today because 12 people’s lives were ridiculously and extravagantly changed. If one, two, three people come instead of the hoards you get on your youth nights, disciple them. Walk with them.
Because that’s the best communication you can give them.