I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Side comments made by others about how hard teens are to work with. Maybe even other youth workers. Maybe even you. Maybe…even me.

Now sure, some harmless joking is fine – it’s all part of the camaraderie of youth working. However, it can take a more serious feel, and I’ve definitely picked up on it in my years of doing youth ministry.

I have been in meetings and discussions where people who work with teens talk about them like they are the scourge of our civilization. I recently chaperoned for my teenage son’s Middle School field trip, and the teachers were amazed that I was cool with taking nine boys in my group for the day. They asked me like ten times! (I was thinking, “This is nothing! You should see my day job!”)

There really can be a perception that working with teens is a low totem pole kind of job. There can also be a perception that teens are a pain to work with. And this really saddens me. OK, it might even anger me a bit. Even though I know I’ve gotten caught up in the occasional youth ministry joke myself, the reality is I LOVE working with teens. I love the energy, the joy, the realness, the fresh ideas, the passion, and the challenges they bring into my life.

Check out these verses:

Ephesians 1:16 – I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers.

Philemon 1:4 – I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers

Colossians 1:3 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you

There’s an obvious common theme here — being thankful for the people God has entrusted to our care! Gratitude is often a missing ingredient in youth ministry. And this is my encouragement to you (and to me!) today.

Be grateful for your teens! Be grateful for the good days and the difficult ones. Be grateful for the passion they bring and their new outlook on ministry and life they bring. Be grateful for their midnight texts, their crazy stunts, their complicated hearts, and their still-forming faith. Be grateful for the fact that you and I have the privilege of walking with them during this formative and sacred time of life.

Next time you are in a situation to downplay working with young people, or join in on joking about how hard they are to work with. Let some gratefulness slip out, and see what happens!

Christian Dunn
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