I get rather annoyed when I hear people talking about how irresponsible youth are these days. Oh, I admit that there are teenagers who are self-centered and flaky, but so are many adults. It's just that teenagers can be blamed and have rules and laws imposed on them to make them shape up (or at least allow the adults to pretend the problem's solved). A few kids get drunk and have an accident, all teens then have to have a curfew. A few kids wear gang symbols, then all kids have clothing restrictions imposed on them. Not that rules don't exist for adults, we at least have the opportunity to complain about their stupidity without being grounded or suspended.
Why does it annoy me? Because in my experience working with youth they are exceedingly more responsible than adults. I can hire a neighbor kid to cut my grass and I can be sure he will show up to do the job. The cable guy, the plumber, or the phone company are never that reliable. Similarly when I was a Children's Pastor, I do not recall a single year of VBS when there were any adult volunteers who showed up every night. Every single one of them managed to come up with some last minute excuse to skip an evening or two (as well as the entire training period). The teenage helpers on the other hand made it to the training, showed up on time, and were consistently there every night for the kids.
And it's not just that teens are often more responsible than adults, but that I have seen parents forcing their kids to bail on their responsibilities if it cramps their (the parents) style. One year when I was on vacation, I left the weekly Children's Club to the responsibility of one of my teenage helpers. He knew the lesson, knew what set-up involved, and was a committed helper that all the kids knew. Well, he talked back to his mom that week and she grounded him from all activities he enjoyed - including helping with the kids club. (and yes his mom was a committed church member involved in other children's ministry activities herself). Since when was a good punishment (if that exists) to teach your kid that failing one's responsibilities is a good thing? Similarly when we would train teams of teens for mission trips we got to the point where we had to have the parents as well as the teens sign commitment forms. We had discovered that the parents saw a teen's commitment as nonbinding if the parent wished. So last minute family trips, or chores, or babysitting siblings came before training sessions the teens had signed a commitment saying they would attend. But then nothing changed even after the parents signed the commitment forms as well. Apparently giving one's word and signing a commitment held less value for the parents than personal convenience and pleasure.
What really got me though was that the same parents who forced their kids to avoid responsibility then complained to us (as youth and children's pastors) that their kids were irresponsible and could we please teach them something about responsibility. Somedays I just wanted to shake those parents and tell them to open their eyes. But I didn't. That wouldn't have been the nice and responsible "Christian" thing to do. So I just rant about it now.
Labels: Church, Culture, parenting