God the Father/Creator
According to the U.S Census Bureau, there are 24 million children in the United States who are living in ”biological father-absent” homes. That’s a little over one third of all youth in the United States without a father in their lives and that’s just a “present” father. Take into account those youth who do have a father present but not active or even abusive and one could argue that nearly half of all youth the United States do not have a sufficient father figure in their lives. This plays a huge factor in our students ability to conceptualize one of the most prominent attributes of God. The idea of a caring and loving Father is a foreign one to them. Many of our students have no idea what this looks like and while we can never fully take the role of parent in their lives, we as youth workers can play the role of a consistent caring adult, maybe even the only one they’ll have as we try our best at mimicking the love of our Heavenly Father.
The effects of not knowing an earthly father are evidenced in so many of the things our young people are doing. We have boys not being raised to be men thus contributing even more to that absent father number. Then there are girls. The truth is young girls need a father in their life to tell them they’re beautiful or else they look for that approval somewhere else. Have you seen the latest trend among ‘tween girls on YouTube? The trend consists of young girls posting YouTube videos asking complete strangers a very vulnerable question; Am I ugly or am I pretty? After posing the question they’ll show various pictures of themselves or put their hair in different styles waiting for viewers to rate them. The results themselves aren’t always so pretty as people feel comfortable hiding behind their internet anonymity to say very hateful things. Such ‘cyber-bullying’ as it has been coined has been link to suicide in girls. It’s a sad reality stemming from our culture’s emphasis on the external. Our girls are fed impossible physical definitions of beauty such as the recently popular but dangerous ’thigh gap’ trend.
As youth workers, we cannot emphasize enough that God created man and woman in His image and therefore human is beauty by default. Yet more important is that this beauty is not just external. The true beauty of God’s creation is found in Him breathing life into us. Remember, looking good on the outside/fashion is a result of the fall. It wasn’t until the inside, the hearts of Adam and Eve, were infected after they sinned that they believed their external appearance was an issue. Guide students back to a clean heart and tell them of their infinite beauty on the inside given to them by their life-breathing creator and the fears of the external will greatly decrease.
Finally, Youth need to know that God is big, very big. In a moment in their lives when peer pressure is at its height and formation of identity involves trying on various hats, mistakes are bound to be made. Youth Workers would do well to remember the mistakes they made as a teenager and even share them as appropriate. Conceptualizing the huge vastness of God is an endless process that generally develops in the mature believer. Many of the students we serve are at the beginning stages of this journey when they are most vulnerable to the lie that whatever they have done is so terrible and awful that they can’t possibly be forgiven. As Youth Workers, we need to let students know that God is not only bigger than any thing they’ve ever done but also everything we’ve ever done, everything we’ve faced and everything they will ever face.
Stay tuned for part 2!