I firmly believe that we all desire to be valued and to be accepted. These two things will drive many people to do many things. This is very much true in the world of adolescents, they are looking to find love (be valued) and to belong. This is the basis for healthy development in all areas of life. Ideally, in God's design, the adolescent would find love and acceptance at home. Indeed a healthy family is key to the adolescent’s identity formation. It has been well documented that the breakdown of the family has had an impact on adolescents. In one youth worker's experience (Chap Clark), the mid-adolescents who struggle the most in their adolescent development come almost universally from a family system that was less than safe and supportive. For those who do not find home to be a place of love and nurturing were looking elsewhere to feel valuable and wanted. Another author, Walt Mueller, notes that adolescents just want to be loved. He writes, “Research has shown that teenagers will often use sex as a means to express and satisfy emotional and interpersonal needs that have little to do with sex. Sexual intercourse becomes a coping mechanism to deal with the absence of love and affection at home...The weakening of the family unit over the last decades has contributed to the sexuality crisis among teenagers. Studies show that “kids with a stable family background had lower levels of premarital intercourse and older age at first intercourse.””
But all is not lost.I believe that the church youth ministry can be a place where adolescents can try to make sense of their world and explore the questions that they are asking. Church can, and should be, a place where students are allowed to struggle with their questions and where guidance is offered. Their cries for help and clarity need to be listened to and commended as being valid. When the questions have been heard, then the youth ministry can journey with students in exploring answers and presenting God’s truth. I also believe that the church can be a place of belonging for students. Youth ministries should be seeking to be communities of acceptance and belonging where relationships can be cultivated and nurtured. These relationships ought to involve multiple generations so that adolescents have the opportunity to experience positive adult relationships as well as relationships with peers. Indeed The youth ministry is in a unique situation of being a place where students can come and experience love. The world can be a hostile place for adolescents, but the church should be a place where they feel loved and valued, unjudged against the societal model of what they should be.