3 Things Every Teenager Needs From You to Win the War in Their Mind
By James Meehan
Thanks to James Meehan for this post. James is a teaching pastor and leads the content creation for Switch, the youth ministry at Life.Church. James and his team are on the cutting edge of helping teenagers thrive in our complex world.
Being a teenager has never been easy, and today’s teenagers are facing more adversity in their minds than ever before.
As a youth pastor, I can’t tell you how many questions, fears, and doubts I’ve heard from the students I’m working so hard to reach. It’s gut-wrenching, and it’s complicated.
This is why I’m so grateful for Pastor Craig’s latest book, Winning the War in Your Mind for Teens. Throughout this book, Craig shares life-changing truths, practical strategies, and hope that the next generation’s future can be brighter and better than their past and present.
But winning the war in your mind, no matter your age, is much easier when you’re not fighting alone. This is where you come in. The next generation needs people to guide, mentor, and encourage them to win this war.
So, what can you do? Here are three ways you can help the teenagers in your life win the war in their minds:
1. Listen care-fully.
In his iconic book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey teaches readers to “seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.” This is my goal whenever I work with students.
So much of their early years is spent listening to parents, teachers, coaches, and social media influencers tell them what to do and think. This is why it’s so meaningful when you take the time to actually listen to them and show them that you care.
Many young people may start out hesitant to talk about real things because they may not yet trust you with the deeper issues. This is where consistency comes in. Because consistency builds trust, and trust builds relationships.
The more consistently you listen to the young people in your life, the more they’ll start to trust you, and the more they’ll open up to you about what they’re really dealing with.
But how do we start the conversation? Here are four basic questions I’ve found helpful:
- What are you mad about?
- What are you sad about?
- What are you anxious about?
- What are you happy about?
After you ask each question, listen carefully to what they have to say. Resist the urge to dump solutions and suggestions on them. Until they believe you’ve really listened to them, they won’t be ready to listen to you. Teenagers aren’t problems to be solved, they’re people to be loved.
2. Speak life into them.
Before I started in youth ministry, I wanted to be a high school English teacher. And it’s not because I love English. It’s because I had two amazing English teachers who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, saw things in me I couldn’t see, and spoke life into me when I needed it most.
It all started when they said, “I believe in you.” One sentence that flipped my world upside down. It was a spark of hope that changed the trajectory of my life. You might think I’m overstating the impact, but I promise you I’m not.
I was never all that passionate about English and I abhorred grammar, but I loved those teachers and wanted to be like them because I knew they loved me.
All of us want to know that who we are matters and that what we do makes a difference. Sometimes, the difference between someone squandering their potential and realizing their potential is only four words: “I believe in you.”
If that’s all you said, it would be enough to make a lasting impact. But if you want to take it even further after you tell them you believe in them, tell them what you see in them.
We often don’t realize our strengths until someone else points them out. When you tell teenagers what you see in them, they’ll have a much easier time seeing it in themselves.
3. Share your struggles.
Pastor Craig often reminds us, “We might impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses.”
In a world where almost everything is filtered and anything can be faked, teenagers are craving something real.
They’re looking for real relationships. People they can be honest with and people who will be honest with them.
In his book, Building a StoryBrand, author Donald Miller describes a guide as someone with empathy and authority.
If you’re trying to get from where you are to a place you’ve never been or seen, a map is good, but a guide is better.
Guides don’t just tell you where to go. They walk with you on the journey.
They have the experience and expertise to help you get where you want to go, but will also help you along the way.
Today’s teenagers need guides.
How can we become that guide?
We show them empathy when we meet them where they are, and then we show them we are capable of helping them get where they need to go.
We share our struggles. Instead of presenting a perfectly curated image of ourselves, we tell them about the battles we have fought and the war that is still waging in our own minds.
Teenagers don’t need more celebrities. They need you.
Your next steps
Read this book with the teen in your life.
So you have a teen in your life that you want to help. How can you set up opportunities to listen to them, speak life into them, and open up about your struggles?
I recommend reading Winning the War in Your Mind for Teens with that teenager and blocking some time to talk about each chapter with them.
In Winning the War in Your Mind for Teens Craig Groeschel draws on Scripture and the latest findings of brain science to lay out practical strategies that will free you from the grip of harmful, destructive thinking and enable you to live the life that God intends you to live. You can get your copy here!
Also, our team has put together 11 Scripture card graphics that will help you keep the most important verses for winning the war in your mind in front of you. You can get those graphics here.