Talking to Teenagers About Failure

Last week in youth group, we talked about dealing with failure. It’s a subject that I find that we Christians do not talk about directly enough (I looked through my notes, and I won’t admit here the last time I talked about it).

Here are few things that I have learned about teenagers and failure:
1. They think about it much more than I think they do. They apathy that we think they walk around with is part of the self-defense mechanisms in hopes of repelling adults from pointing out even more flaws and failures. (This is happens even if they are not consciously trying)
2. Teens are susceptible of allowing failure to shape their identity. Often they carry this into adulthood.
3. Youth ministry training needs to have more adolescent psychology because I know I am only scratching the surface here.

I chose the end of the year to discuss this topic for obvious reasons. Among them is that not everyone is going to finish the year the way they hoped. Final grades are coming to fruition, sophomores and juniors are getting their SAT scores and seniors are opening up acceptance and rejection letters. Oh and then there are all the normal pressures of high school life, prom season, family issues, etc.

It’s here that I hope that young people lean on their faith rather than see it as another source of potential stress.

We opened our time with some of my favorite quotes on the subject:
“Try is the first step to failure.” – Homer Simpson
“No matter how good you are at something, there’s always about a million people better than you.” – Homer Simpson
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” – Oscar Wilde
“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends” – Clarence Oddboddy from It’s a Wonderful Life
“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again …” Proverbs 24:16

Sadly all of us from students to adults fail in a number of ways, morally, physically, spiritually, alone, and in community – it’s a part of life. I take comfort that many of the “success” stories in the Bible are born out of failure. To name a few, Abraham, Moses, Jacob (who’ve been talking about all year), David, Paul, and Peter. And that’s the best part for me.

I love that we serve a God that not only forgives us but also strengthens us to overcome the difficulties of life. I have many hopes regarding this idea, but as a youth pastor, my prayer is that young people don’t go through life alone (or leaning on only a few friends), but in community relying on the grace that only God can give.

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