How can we involve our teenagers in caregiving? We know it’s important to encourage teens to help others. So you might try a scenario like this:
Scene #1: A mother says to her teenage son, “Joe, please go down the street today and mow Mrs. Johnson’s lawn. As you know, Mrs. Johnson is elderly and disabled. She cannot afford to hire someone to mow her lawn.” Now it is likely that Joe will argue, sulk, and may get angry, but he will shuffle down the street and mow the lawn –without experiencing much joy.
Now, let’s consider another scenario:
Scene #2: One Saturday, Joe is about to go out the door, and his mother asks, “Where are you going?” Joe says, “The youth group at church has decided to mow some of the elderly peoples’ lawns as a service project, and we are going to do that this morning and then go for pizza.” Now the caring and helping the elderly becomes fun because he is doing with his buddies, and they will joke around and tell stories, and at the same time Joe and the others may discover that it is ok and even fun to help others.
Which scenario would you like to experience in your household? It is obvious that there is more joy in caregiving for all ages when we are not “forced” to care. Oftentimes, our churches can play a significant role by presenting caregiving experiences. When the suggestion comes from someone other than the parent, teens are often more receptive. So when one’s faith community offers their youth a variety of caregiving opportunities, the teens are more likely to choose to participate . . . .and may even display some enthusiasm.
Another church-sponsored activity that appeals to teenagers is mission trips. Larry and I have taken several groups from our church on work mission trips. Those groups have often included teenagers. One year five teenagers (without their parents) went with us to Water Missions International in Charleston, South Carolina. The teens were amazing. They worked alongside the adults for many long hours without ever complaining, and during the evenings they were lots of fun. At the end of the week, I know that each one of them really felt good about their contribution and were eager to do it again.
Our churches can play an important role in offering youth a variety of experiences in caring for others. (Hopefully, the parents of teenagers will encourage their youth to participate in such activities!)
So let us encourage our churches to provide our teens with caregiving experiences, and we parents and other church members need to support these experiences by volunteering our time and financial support.