So you want to volunteer with teenagers, huh? Some people might think you’re crazy... but we know better. Middle schoolers and high schoolers are awesome. They’re hilarious (sometimes on purpose). They’re dramatic. They’re complicated. And they’re a ton of fun.But most importantly, middle schoolers and high schoolers are at a stage in their lives when they desperately need someone like you to hang out with them, love them (and like them too), and show them what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Whatever role you choose to play in our ministry this year, we want to help you to begin making a lasting impact in the lives and faith of teenagers. Thanks for being willing to serve. Thanks for caring about teenagers. And thanks for letting God use you.We can’t wait to see what this year has in store. -Pastor Mark & Kristin
Download our Volunteer Handbook Here
Asking for Help
It's not easy to ask for help, but here are a few ways that might make it a little bit easier whether you're a parent or a volunteer, these tips can help.
Getting Your Small Group To Open Up
It's NEVER easy to lead a small group and you aren't even sure if they want to be there. So here are some things that might make it go more smoothly and help them to open up and talk!
Walking down the street in my neighborhood, I see them all the time. I have no idea where they come from or what motivates them, but they terrify me like nothing else.
I am, of course, talking about teenage girls.
I’m not alone. It’s recently become a trend on TikTok for millennial users to confess that they’re also terrified of this specific demographic of young folks who are always well-dressed and traveling in packs.
“You have to stop being afraid of those groups of teenagers at the mall,” TikTok user notthomas said in one such video. “I know they’re intimidating, but they’re just as scared of you as you are of them.”
When it comes to how to relate to teens another TikTok user urges: “You have to stop being afraid of groups of overdressed middle school girls at Starbucks,” user definitelynotalexxx said in a similar post. “You’re older, you’re wiser and you’re stronger. They may judge your outfit, but they cannot hurt you.”
So why are members of Gen Z so scary to millennials, who aren’t even that much older than them? I spoke to a number of mental health professionals about the generational divide.
Teenagers are fundamentally cool
As Dr. Stephanie Newman wrote in Psychology Today, the reason why so many young people look so fashionable and seem to always travel in swarms is that they face a great deal of pressure to fit in with their friends — a possible sign of insecurity.
“By dressing the same way, speaking the same way, and adopting their friends’ mannerisms, they are actually expressing something complicated about their own developing self-esteem,” she wrote. “They try to get approval and attention in tacit and unspoken ways in order to bolster their fragile self-esteem.”
Based on this information, we know young people are very aware of what is cool, but it’s not typically to intimidate anyone. It’s the opposite. For many teenagers, they don’t want to be cool to stand out. They just want to fit in.
Millennials, on the other hand, just want to stay relevant. Teenagers remind them of their own mortality.
“It’s a little unsettling to suddenly find that you’re no longer the youngest generation on social media,” Katie Sammann, a licensed marriage and family therapy associate, told In The Know. “[Millennials are] less ‘in touch’ with popular culture, new technology, trends and other markers of youth. Their presence reminds us of our age and can make us feel less confident and more vulnerable.”
She said that this realization can be brutal “in a culture that values youth above all else.”
The fix, though, is pretty simple — just remember that most teens are too busy worrying about how others perceive them to spend too much time judging a random thirtysomething’s outfit at Starbucks.
“Gen Z has garnered a reputation for being unafraid to stand up for what they believe in, especially social justice issues and environmental issues,” she said. “This quality is not one [millennials] value, and while I think many of us respect it, we are a bit scared of their willingness to speak their mind.”
Instead of allowing that fear to fester inside you, celebrate their strengths alongside yours. Life is not a popularity contest.
It’s hard to look at a teenager and not compare yourself to them — both the way you both are now, and how you used to look and act when you were that age.
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, told In The Know that “on a very primitive level, competitive energy has the capacity to breed to breed fear, anxiety and insecurity.” The urge to compare ourselves to others is often unconscious, but feelings of jealousy can arise from that, leaving us feeling undesirable and thus even more vulnerable.
She said this especially happens when we are alone and encounter a “pack” or “group” of people — when you’re at Starbucks by yourself and you encounter a group, you’re going to instinctively feel unsafe.
“On a neurobiological level, a group that is perceived as ‘superior’ is registered as a threat — this can stimulate an actual ‘fight or flight’ response,” she explained. “When a particular group (e.g., teenagers) appears stronger or more acceptable in some way, feelings of insecurity and apprehension can quickly arise.”