What Do I Do??


I have a problem.

I consider it to be a big problem. Others might not, but I do.

I can’t talk to teenagers.

That’s it.

“But wait!” you say, “I am a teenager, and you talk to me all the time!”

Well, yes, that is true. But you are on the internet. 😛

Perhaps I should say ‘connect’ instead. I want to add value to those I talk to, and I want to connect with their value: I want to learn what they have learned. I have a purpose in my conversations.

Perhaps that is why when I walk up to a group of talking teenagers (even at my church), they stop talking and wander off.

Or maybe it is the beard. Whatever.

When I corner them and ask them what they are interested in, they clam up: they go dry. If I ask a group of them what they were talking about, they don’t know. If I ask them what they would like to talk about… They. Have. No. Clue.

It is embarassing walking up to them, because I can’t get the purpose out of my stride, and I scare them.

I can talk to the adults with ease. On the internet and off.

I can talk to rebelutionaries. Easily.


But I can’t talk to my own kind… or are they my kind?

They react to me like I am an adult, and they don’t connect with me.

Maybe because I interact with adults on their level. Maybe my best friends and buddies (in face-to-face communication) are 3-4 times my age.

Maybe it is because I actually have a purpose in life, interests, and dreams. Maybe?

But whatever the reason why, I want to connect with them. I have a passion to reach out to them. I want to touch their lives. I want to share what I have learned with them. I want to learn from them.

That is why I care.

But I don’t know how.

I am sure at least some of you, my dear readers, you who know how to think, have this same problem. I know some of you have the opposite problem: you can’t break into the ring of adults.

But how do you break into the ring of teens?

None of our family has been able to, not even enough to reveal our consummate weirdness. So that isn’t what is scaring them off.

So I am asking you, my treasured online friends: How can we connect with our age group? How do you who are adults reach us?

Thank you.


38 Responses

  1. Knowing that you have recently read John Maxwell’s new book let’s me know how much you want to connect with them. I connect well with teens, I connect well with about everyone! My wife does even better!
    I have suggestions.
    1. Become a great story teller. You want to stimulate their thoughts, nothing does it better than a vivid story. Association will kick in and someone else will share a similar story.
    2. Notice when someone does something that makes them vulnerable and, if you can, let them know you saw their effort and express your approval of them.
    3. Tell things about yourself that make you vulnerable in a humorous way.
    4. Read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends…” Most modern authors of works on relationships or persuasion refer back to this work.
    5. You mentioned your beard. If you look quite a bit different that is a speed bump. There is an unspoken question in relationships, “Do I need to change for you to like me?” A fear, “If I like you I might start looking more like you, and you look different than everybody!”

    • I am glad that you commented! I was hoping you would. 🙂

      I will try those. I have read Dale Carnegie’s book many times.

      I doubt that it is my beard, based on the fact that my sister has the same difficulty, and she has no trace of a beard. 😀

      But I will take that into consideration.

      My difficulty is that both Carnegie and Maxwell talk about finding out the interests of the other person, but these people don’t have interests as such. At least if they do, they don’t want to talk about them.

  2. Hmm… Tough problem, Jay. 😛

    I have had such problems at a kid but it seems I don’t quite as much anymore. I must admit it though, most of my friends are either a lot younger than me or a lot older than me. 😛 lol Hehe

  3. I know! 😛 Yeah, lol I actually was a pretty much castout of “the circle” until I grew my hair out. >_> lol It takes a while. However, I spend all my time at home and don’t go to any social things so I’m still pretty unpopular. LOL

  4. Interesting thoughts, I never really thought about how I become better friends with rebelutionaries then I do with people at my church or around my town.

    • Have you come to any conclusions now that you have thought about it?

    • Not yet, I have been thinking why does it seem easier for us to chat with rebelutionaries then teens around us. The only thing I could come up with is that we have two thing in common with each other which would be wanting to “Do hard Things” and we want to share God’s word. Though teens at Church should want to do that.

      Then I thought another way we are in common is many of us our home-school students. I have noticed some teens think home-school students are weird but then I don’t know if the teens at your Church are home-school students.

      Then we got the possibility of its the reason “how” we contact each other on the Reb. I don’t think many of us have ever met each other from the Reb (though it would be fun) in person. So maybe you could try Email/IM/Texting to contact them.

      Sorry if none of this is helping, we don’t really have any teens at our Church. So I am not commonly walking up to teens to meet them.

    • I think the common vision for having a purpose in your life really is a defining factor, yes.

      Some are homeschooled, some are not, I can’t see a definitive line there.

      I might be able to get a hold of them online, I don’t know. Not sure how I would get their info if they don’t talk to me though. 😛

  5. I know what you mean Jay, but I don’t really know if I can help. Most of my friends at church are adults (or younger kids) and I’ve never been able to break into the “teen circle” either.

    Umm… I found one of the very common ways to get into a conversation with a group of teens is when you share a resent activity, (ex. everyone just saw this new movie…), I know that won’t really help you on a deep level, but it could be a start.

    I hope I was a little helpful, I tried to be.


  6. Never having spoken face-to-face with you, I don’t know how you talk. I know, like me, you enjoy using perfect grammar and new words. I’ve found, though, that doing that in everyday language and conversations turns everyone off. Seriously. Walk up to a teen and say, “Greetings and salutations,” and watch them walk away.

    Have you ever tried to join a group of teens and simply listen? Like, not talk at all? I’ve found that works a little better than trying to carry on a normal conversation with them. 🙂

    Wow, that was *not* a very helpful comment. Sorry. 😀 Can’t think of anything else. 😛

    • I rarely use such words in normal face-to-face conversation. I do every once in a while, but only when the situation calls for it (which is generally when I am talking to an adult about something interesting).

      When I walk up and try to listen they stop talking and walk away. 😛

      Thanks for the comment! It was useful. 🙂

  7. It is sad because, truly, “adolescence” is not a Biblical concept. Ideally, “teenagers” would already be “young adults.” I love homeschooling, and this is one reason- it encourages everyone to be able to interact with people all over the age gamut.

    To “ibradsiblog”- maybe it’s because you share the same vision! You’re going in the same direction! You are acting like adults. That’s really the only Biblical distinction I can see- children and adults. You can be a young adult, but not an adolescent. “Adolescence” seems to me to be a term for extended childhood.

    • Very true. Here is a nice verse about adolescence. Well I think it is: Proverbs 13:20 (New International Version)

      20 He who walks with the wise grows wise,
      but a companion of fools suffers harm.

      So at times it is better to be with those older then us, and to train the younger 3 year olds.

    • Brilliant comment Gabriel! Those are the exact reasons that I see. That is a very good way to put it.

      Of course we are still stuck as to how to connect with them, although we have had several great suggestions.

  8. Well, we already talked about this some, so you pretty much have my ideas…

    However, I wanted to comment anyway (I guess your liking of talking is wearing off on me. :P) and say thank you for the post.

    While it brings up questions that I don’t have good answers for as of yet, it also made me think about the importance of attempting to connect with the young people at church. I’m afraid I have become rather complacent towards them and just haven’t bothered trying anymore.

    I think another part of it may partly be our attitude (or what they perceive to be our attitude) of slight superiority. I think you know what I mean… so I guess it’s important that we do our best to have a humble attitude towards them, and, whenever possible, assure them that we aren’t “looking down” on them.

    Mama and I talked and prayed about this for awhile this morning… It’s an interesting puzzler! Mama was saying that we need to show love to them in spite of how they act. Of course, that is hard when they just leave. 😀 But we can at least do our best to find ways to bless them.

    I think this is actually sort of laziness on our (or at least my) part… it takes a lot more work to try to connect with teenagers than it does to just talk to adults or three year olds. 😀

    “When I corner them and ask them what they are interested in, they clam up: they go dry.”

    Hehe, maybe you shouldn’t corner them. 😉 You probably scare them to death! Maybe that’s why they can’t talk… 😀

    Okay, so actually I had more ideas than what I said this morning. haha.

    • Glad it is rubbing off! I like to hear what you say. 🙂

      That is indeed something that we all struggle with, and which we need to watch out for. I try not to look down on them for not having a life… there I go again. Haha.

      I do try to show love to them, but it is hard if I can’t find common ground to interact with them.

      True, true, that is why I have taken it as a challenge to connect with them. Do Hard Things! 🙂

      I know… but they are always in the corners. 😛

      Good thing too! Thanks for the comment!

  9. This might sound like a sarcastic comment, but I mean it seriously. Try talking about television. I have noticed that TV is about the only thing people really talk about anymore. I decidedly did not fit in at our last “church”. Conversations in sunday school, in the foyer – before and after the service, sermon illustrations etc. were all drawn from TV. If you didn’t watch TV you didn’t have anything to contribute and they didn’t want to talk in depth about anything else.

    That goes hand in hand with something deeper though. I think the most threatening thing about people like you (and me) is that WE THINK. We read/see/hear something and we THINK about it until we come to a conclusion. That is something most Americans (at least) rarely do. They usually get their opinions fully formed from the television or the government school system.

    It’s like being a skinny chick in a room full of overweight women. You might have the answer… but trust me, NOBODY wants to hear it. If your local teens got involved in conversation with you they might encounter an idea that the television/school system hadn’t told them about and thus, they would have no answer/opinion to offer on that subject. That might make them feel like they needed to change something. (horrors!)

    I can hear your heart shining through in this issue… that you want to reach them. I guess I’m too jaded. I’ve tried for too long to get through to people who pushed me aside and ignored me because I didn’t fit into narrow definition of ‘normal.’ My advice might not be the best to take… but it would be this:

    ask God to lead you to someone that you CAN reach and leave the sleepers to lie on their beds of ease.

    Heaven knows they can’t be bothered to miss their favorite show or (even worse) actually change their way of thinking enough to admit someone who isn’t obsessed with Survivor into their circle of friends. /rant lol

    • Well I have never been a skinny chick in a room full of overweight women… but I think I understand your illustration.

      I will try to see if I can find some sort of common ground with ughh TV.

      Thing is that some of them don’t watch TV either. It is weird. They are homeschooled, they are the pastor’s children, they don’t watch TV, they don’t even associate with many other teens other than at church. But they are still… cliquey with the other, more worldly teens there.

  10. I agree. That is weird.

    * sigh * I don’t like (that’s actually an understatement…) cliques. When I see the least hint of one in Bright Lights it scares me and I usually end up talking to the girls about it. haha.

    There are some people at our church who are sort of like that… We’ve been coming here around 5 years now and still haven’t really gotten in the group. 😛 Hehe, we invited quite a few people to church… so now we have people here who will talk to us. 😀 It kind of scared the other people at church that we had a group around us…

    Haha, if we come, we’ll all be having so much fun that maybe someone will get curious enough to come over to us! 🙂

    • I was in a clique once, accidentally. It was a nasty situation. I am sure some of the people involved still intensely dislike me for it. I was not used to interacting with teens (this was at the Ranch), and so I gravitated to the geeks, and they gravitated to me. The non-geeky ones didn’t like that (though they didn’t like me either, so I am not sure what they were mad about…). It took a lot of work on my part to get it fixed.

  11. Jay, I’m working off from what you’ve told me (and what I’ve observed) about what you feel called to do. So, this might not work for other people. It’s custom tailored for you.

    And, I’m not an expert. Sixteen years is not enough time to really know anything about anything.

    “Maybe it is because I actually have a purpose in life, interests, and dreams. Maybe?”

    Ah, see, you’ve hit the problem, right there. Or at least, that’s what I’ve found the problem to be. I’m “teen-aged” physically speaking, but other than that…I’m not.

    I’ve looked for a common denominator between other people close to my age or physical maturity who I am friends with, and I’ve discovered that they all feel like they have a purpose, are willing to speak about their interests, and are trying to fulfill their dreams.

    Then I looked at the teenagers. And I realized the reason I can’t seem to get through to them at all is because our motivations are different. Because I have something moving me, I consciously or sub-consciously understand people based on their place in God’s economy as it relates to my place. If someone hasn’t realized their place, or worse yet, is working in the opposite direction they should go, I have can understand their position, but it’s nature makes it different for me to relate to them.

    But that’s when I discovered how I can still get through to them: whether they think so or not, they want to find their place in God’s economy. They want to have real aspirations, even if they don’t have any now.

    So, here’s my current theory (theory because I haven’t been able to test it quite enough to consider it a law) on how to get through:

    First, you discover what their interests are. Then, figure out what you can about their family life, how they treat co-workers, etc. This is important, because things like this can lead you to discovering a skill, or an ability that could become a skill, as well as understanding how they go about thinking. (Think of the Myers-Briggs typology here.)

    And, in the meantime, it gives you something to talk about. You see, people often use conversation about TV, etc., as a front for what they really want to talk about. Violence, maybe some other things (I’m mincing words here), TV provides an opportunity to discuss these things. It’s the same with talking about music. A person who talks about rap probably isn’t interested so much in the actually music that in the lyrical qualities of rap. In the same way, a person who talks about classic music is probably actually talking about the essence that the music captures.

    So, if you know what they talk about, you can discover what it is they really want to talk about. That leads to knowing what they’re really interested in.

    And, frankly, if their interests tend in certain directions, they may not be the kind of teenager you are called to minister to. You personally have enough varying interests that you could probably take an interest in violence and turn it into something good, just as well as an interest in the conflict between good and evil. But some people are more limited, and you do have some limits. There may be some you have to leave to the other workers.

    Youth ministry is largely about being one of the tools God uses to shape a youth into what they are meant to be. So, if you want to connect, you need to know where you yourself are coming from. At this time in your life, you might desire friendship (although that could take some work), or you might simply want to observe and begin to train for the time when you can go full blown into your calling (a time which you’ll probably have to wait a while for). In any case, knowing why you want to talk to them, knowing where your talk is coming from, will go a long way in getting through.

    Know where you’re coming from: Are you the tool that sharpens a blade, or the one rounds out the edges of a piece of wood? Are you to start the process of shaping, or finish it? Are you to focus on teaching Worldview, or helping them find their place in God’s economy?

    However, you really should make sure that it’s not being in a clique that’s in the way. Believe me, looking down on someone because they aren’t home educated (not that you have a problem with that), or looking down on someone because they have different ideas about government, or because they don’t really know as much as they think they do, or because they seem to live in a different world, can be a problem.

    Most important of all, if they don’t seem to think differently than you because they don’t seem to think about anything at all, don’t let that get in the way. That should inspire you to get through: They need someone to wake them up. Sometimes, you might not really get through until after they’ve started to wake up.

    So, unlike White Raven (who I hold in high respect), I would say not to let the sleepers lie. They need a person or event to wake them up, and it might be you. The people who awake don’t need your help quite as much as the ones who are asleep. Especially young Christians who are asleep. They lie in a very dangerous position.

    And don’t try to find common ground with TV. I’ve found that nothing gets in the way more than gratifying a bad desire, and most of the time, it’s the bad desires that make people want to talk about TV.

    If a person has a sense of adventure, better to bring up good books. Even if they haven’t read any. If they like News TV, send them to a good, safe, Christian, on-line news source.

    Whatever it is that draws conversation to TV, it’s almost always bad. Besides, you don’t want to encourage TV watching. It’s much easier to fall into sin through the TV than the Internet or books. You don’t have to make a conscience decision to find bad stuff, instead, with the TV, you have to make a conscience decision to avoid it. It makes sinning easy and hides it under Catch 22s and fancy special effects.

    Wasn’t much help, was I? Probably not. I don’t have this communicating with teenagers thing figured out, myself.

    • “When I corner them and ask them what they are interested in, they clam up: they go dry.”

      BTW, don’t ask. Listen to them. Especially if they’re female. Whatever they’re interested in, it’s bound to come flying out in flashing colors eventually. If they’re guys, trying doing something with them rather than talking. If they don’t offer any ideas, invite them to do something you thought of. Or just watch them do something they’ve already started.

      You can learn a lot about a girl by listening. You can learn a lot about a guy by finding out what position he likes to play in Football. And why, of course.

      It’s hypocritical for me to say it, but study up on people observation.

    • I am glad you are my friend. Very good thoughts. I am getting some good ideas here. We will see how it goes. 🙂

      We have invited them over for dinner before, and played games with them. They did loosen up a bit.

      By themselves, they all seem almost alright, but together they are like I was talking about. Hope?

    • That’s a good point. They each pressure each other into acting “normal”, whatever that may be. Get them alone, and you get them outside of the pressure.

      I might use the analogy that they’re in a pressure freeze. They have the energy for motion, but they don’t have the room. If they don’t get room, it eventually eliminates the energy. Then, you have to use their properties (like a musical talent, for example) to put energy back into them. Then God can use you to shape them, once they’re outside of the pressure.

      To continue on the physics analogy: The laws of Thermodynamics hold true. Whatever energy you put into them will come at a cost to yourself. Thankfully, God keeps putting more energy into His economy.

      But the energy is useless if they’re still in the pressure freezer.

      Of course, there are some people who create a pressure freezer around them. The trick is to catch these people doing something spiritually healthy that they actually enjoy. (Nature photography, for example.) Then you’ve got them outside of their self-enforced pressure freeze.

      Just a simple question like, “So, you like photography?” can get you started. Then you eventually get to questions like “Have you ever thought about using photography to impact people?” If they catch that spark, it can wake the motion back up. Then you have some material to work with.

      You know, just writing this, I think I’m beginning to see a way to get through to a guy I know.

      I’ve got to say, you win some, you loose some, and some you have to wait to know about. Sometimes the spark catches, you wake up the motion, and you’ve got something to work with. Sometimes the Enemy’s grip on them is to strong, and the spark dies. A sometimes, that spark might fall, and you can’t see it anymore, but it’s starting the fire slowly.

      And sometimes, like starting a movement, you might start a wildfire. It won’t happen every time, but sometimes that fire really spreads fast.

      That’s actually kind of how I woke up. I was sort of awake already, but it was kind of a drowsy twilight. Then I got stuck in a situation where there was a person with a spark, and that person lit a spark in me and a bunch of other people as well.

      See if you can’t get them all together, find something they all, or most of them, share in common, and try to light the spark there. The more fires you start, the more energy you have to work with.

      Just watch out: sometimes people get carried away. Better to throw a bucket of water over someones fire, and quench it entirely, than to spark a communist take over. (Major exaggeration. But somewhat possible.)

      Think of it as a controlled burn: you don’t want it everywhere in someone’s life, and there are certainly place you never want the fire to touch. Of course, a spark may hit the wrong spot, like a persons greed. The best thing you can do then is try to put it out.

      I’m glad you’re my friend as well. I think your fire has shot a spark over to mine quite a few times.

      That definitely sounds like hope to me. Work from that angle and see where you go from there.

      Another observation: Friendship isn’t always going to be your “modus operandi”. I know it’s easy to confuse brotherhood, mentor-ship, etc., as a relationship of friends, but usually these things simply give rise to friendship. But, the one thing you always have to be is an ally. Your real good is another persons real good.

      We can be allies even when the ally may be on the wrong side of Cosmic Battle. Remember, “we fight not against flesh and blood.” I don’t think I’m stepping out of context with that verse. We’re fighting FOR them, not against them. Aid a person in eradicating the enemy’s holds on them.

    • You make some very good points there! I think this has been the most profitable post as far as comments go. 🙂 I have gotten about 5 guest posts out of it! Haha.

      I like what you were saying about being allies with them. “We can be allies even when the ally may be on the wrong side of Cosmic Battle.” I knew that we aren’t supposed to be fighting them, but helping them, but putting it that way really makes a difference. Very good!

      And this will take energy, definitely (DDA approved spelling there).

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment so well!

    • I just wanted to mention. You’ve sent at least one spark over to me, too, Jay. Thanks!

    • Thank you Zoe. It is encouraging to know that I have helped people. 🙂

  12. I’m definitely not the expert at this, since I often find it hard to start friendships, but I did have an idea.

    If part of the problem is cliques, what about trying to befriend them when they’re not with their other friends? For instance, ask your parents if they could invite the pastor’s family over for supper. Then you would be alone with just those teens, and they wouldn’t be able to gravitate to their other friends, which would at least give you a better chance of talking to them. And then maybe the next time they’re with their friends, they’ll be more likely to include you. I feel like I should be able to give you more insight on reaching out to PK’s, since I’m one myself, but just can’t think of anything. Sorry! 🙂

    • As I mentioned in my latest response to Neil, I have tried those, and it did help. Maybe we should try again. They seem to act different around their other friends though.

      Maybe I am also blowing it out of proportion. You never know.

  13. Jay,

    As many of others have already commented, I really don’t have any special expertise in this area. At the risk of sounding boastful (by no means my intent…just giving a little background on where I am coming from) I’ve never really had any trouble talking to people as a rule (elderly people, teenagers, small children, adults, etc) and don’t struggle to be “accepted”. But, I realize this is largely a function of my “type” and happens naturally…I’ve never really had to think about the matter.

    That said, I would point out and echo a couple things. I may just be restating the obvious and/or others comments, so please forgive me if that’s the case.

    There is a difference between your thought (mind) and your instinct. You might walk up to a group intending (i.e. thinking) you are just going to listen, but if your instinct is to do something else (like “reach” them) that will come through and will be instinctively discerned by them even if in your mind it is not your intention to do so. Neil and perhaps others have already pointed this out, but instead of talking to them as a means of getting to know them, just try to listen. I believe you said they walk away when you walk up, much less talk, which obviously makes it hard to listen; but, in this case I think a little “fringing” would be a good thing to try. Just hang around, maybe even around the edges, just listening and observing (not in a stalker sort of way) and see if you can’t gradually get in close enough to listen obviously. If they are acting like a clique then you especially can’t get them to be friends with you by asking such questions as “what are your interests?” because they will feel you are trying to force your way in. They have to “let” you in…you can’t invite yourself. 🙂

    I am deeply saddened by cliques…but the reality is that they do exist and if you want to change them you have to reach a certain level of acceptance in their eyes.

    Another commenter suggested the use of stories from everyday life because that might start a “yeah, I’ve had that happen to!” sort of conversation. I think that is also a good idea, but it can’t be forced; that is the key. You might even try catching them individually or at least in smaller groups. One of the things about a clique is that they don’t “need” or “want” you to have a good or interesting time because they have each other and are more than happy that way. They might be more willing to interact with you if they clique isn’t there with them and at full strength. 🙂 Zoe had some good thoughts about cliques, so I’ll just second her practical ideas. 🙂
    On a slight rabbit trail…like you I don’t use ostentatious language (i.e. unnecessarily big words) when I’m talking with teenagers…but when I do use the occasional big word they don’t have a problem. Sometimes they’ll laugh at me and playfully call me a geek or something, but when they do that I laugh with them and it’s just a point of mutual amusement in our interaction.

    One last quick thing; you might not remember, but I once had you take a Briggs Meyers based brain type test and your result at the time (out of 16 types) was ENTP (the Strategizer).

    I hope you get things figured out!

    • Very good thoughts there Mark! You are right, I am rarely listening for listening’s sake: I am listening so that I can do something with them. I need to change that, at least for a little while.

      Yes, I am in-and-out, thoroughly an ENTP: the Entrepreneur. I need to think more as a person rather than a general in this situation (although the general mentality is very beneficial to it, which is why I posted this in the first place). 🙂

      People only do what they want to do. They won’t accept me unless they want to. So I need to give them reasons to want to accept me. Sounds like that is right along with what you were saying.

      I am blown away by the preponderance of brilliantly long comments! I love it! Thanks guys!

  14. […] What Do I Do? – Sorry we couldn’t help Jay out more, but maybe you guys can 😉 […]

  15. “I am blown away by the preponderance of brilliantly long comments!”

    Likewise! You really got a pretty incredible response.

    How’s it going now (that you’re twenty, hehe.)?

  16. That’s good! Hahaha… no, guess not. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: