Just the other day I was speaking to a youth group and while looking out to the crowd I could feel how important teenagers are to Jesus. I wish I would have learned that lesson when I was an actual teenager, instead of spending so many years making bad decisions that I now regret. I know teenagers don't like to read, but please please please read this.
1. Your popularity doesn't mean squat.
The hours and hours I spent worrying about being popular were a big, fat, giant waste of time! I use to get such anxiety over the fact that I couldn't shop at the popular stores because they were too expensive or when the beginnings of a pimple would surface. God wants us to be selfless and humble and worrying about our popularity is the exact opposite of those things. I've also found that when you lean into who you are people will love the authenticity of it.
2. Learn to love to read.
I still struggle reading the Bible and reading in general. However, I have really had to learn to enjoy it over the past years. I wish I would have read more as a teenager and learned to love it like I do now. I wish God would just call me up on my iPhone and tell me what He wants, and maybe someday He will, but until that moment all I have as a Christian is the Bible. It's like a really long text message that God is sending you and I. Learn to dive into that message and soak it up. Ask questions, highlight verses, dig deep. I can't imagine how much deeper the truths of God would be in my heart if I had been reading all through high school.
3. Stay fired up!
Just recently I had one of my high schoolers in my small group tell me that he was feeling, "Blah about God." And I told him that happens from time to time, but you have to push through it. Find things that fire you up and search those out. I love listening to sermons and when I am feeling "blah" I look to some of my favorite pastors to reignite my fire. I also am always looking for new and fresh worship music to keep me going.
4. Don't have sex until you're married.
A lot of heartache will be avoided if you follow this piece of advice. I recently heard Levi Lusko describe sex as a piece of tape. It's suppose to stick once and stick forever. The more you have sex outside of marriage the more you are sticking and unsticking that tape. When the time finally comes to say "I do" and you try to stick that tape to your spouse it won't have it's full power and could lead to a lot of pain. I didn't wait until marriage to have sex and it's one of my greatest regrets in life. I can never go back and undo it. I can never give that to Brooke and I will have to live with that forever.
5. Learn how to talk to people.
To their faces, more specifically. I have noticed that kids don't even ask other kids to homecoming with actual words anymore! They use signs, t-shirts and food. The art of a conversation has been lost in a world of Snapchat, texting, Instagram and so on. But, when your friends are hurting and in pain a text message, Snapchat or Instagram won't be enough. They will need to hear your words, feel your embrace and want real, authentic human interaction. Learn how to talk to people so that at the moment someone needs hope you can be confident and tell them about Jesus and give them the ultimate hope!
6. Never stop inviting your friends.
While I was speaking at a youth group, I asked how many people invited someone to come tonight and I would guess that maybe 7% of hands went up. Just imagine if every week every single student at your youth group was inviting someone? If 100 students are at your youth group and all 100 invited people... Even if only 10% came that is still 10 more people who will be presented with who Jesus is!
7. Pray more.
Praying is like a muscle. The more you work at it the stronger it will become. I think the only time I prayed as a teenager was when I wanted a girl to notice me or when I wanted to win at sports. Things that I now realize don't matter. Instead, I wish I was praying for my classmates, my heart and this broken world. Prayer is important and the more we practice it the more we see what it can do. It's powerful, beautiful and so important! Instead of your only prayers being for your meals, you should start praying for hearts and minds to be won to Christ too!
8. Stop listening to crap.
I listened to metal, hardcore and screamo music in high school. It was all about teenage angst and being broken hearted. So guess what I did? I walked around with my hair in my face being full of teenage angst and feeling all broken hearted. And if all you listen to is rappers talking about how awesome and bad*ss they are, how do you think you going to walk around? If all you listen to is Taylor Swift telling you how crazy and confusing love should be, how do you think you are going to feel about love? I am not one of those people who think you need to listen to worship music exclusively, cause my wife and I certainly love rocking out to T-Swzzy from time to time, but I definitely would advise you to start adding worship music to your playlist. Let your heart be uplifted with the music you listen to. Listening to music that acknowledges the truths of God will help you acknowledge the truths of God.
9. Don't be afraid.
Our society will tell you that what you believe is stupid. Your beliefs will be attacked, you will be persecuted and when you try to defend yourself you will be called a bigot, hater and judgmental. Stand firm in what you belief, respond with a loving heart and know that you will never convert someone to knowing who Jesus is -- only the Holy Spirit can do that. Your job is to be there pointing someone toward Christ. Sometimes you will do that with words and sometimes you will do it with actions. However you do it, don't be afraid because God is on your side and He will supply all you need at the time you need it!
10. End with Jesus.
When you end with Jesus everything becomes a tool for His glory! I don't care if you are a photographer, mathematician or chef. God will use anything and everything to bring people to His glory! Lean into the loves that He has put in your heart and let Him use those things to bring people into His loving embrace. For me that's t-shirts, writing this blog and being goofy on Snapchat. For you it might be totally different and that's okay! God knows what you love and if you lean into Him, He will use those loves to give you a platform to glorify Him!
As a teenager I often felt like I would wait to follow Jesus. That it was something that came with age and I would do all those things when I was older. That's a lie! Following Jesus starts the very moment you start following Jesus. As a teenager you have unlimited potential and reach in your walk with Christ! Lean into those things and allow Him to direct you. Use your high school, sports team and whatever you might be involved in as a launching pad to proclaim His name!