American Teens

And Their (Not) So Secret Lives

In Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, Clark and Powell describe two factors that are working against teenagers.

First, the adults in their lives are less available to them then ever.
This is a HUGE issue, because it is the time in life when they need adults to be present in consistent, empowering, supportive ways. Not only are the adults who should be there - not there. When the adults are there, it is often in unhelpful and even harmful ways. The result is a mistrust and skepticism on the part of teens, toward adults.

The great need is to have many more adults in healthy mentoring relationships with teens.

Second, adolescence itself takes longer then it use to!
This hits some people as strange. For don't we hear all the time, kids are growing up faster then ever. Teenagers have to become adults earlier then ever. Yes, we do hear that all the time, but is is one of those Urban Myths. It is not happening. In fact, according to much research, the opposite is happening.

Adolescence begins earlier then ever. Age 11 is considered the average age entry time.

Then, it extends longer. Now adolescence lasts until the mid-20s. In other words, teens are taking longer to grow into adulthood. For a few reasons.

One, the adults necessary to help foster the maturing process are not there.

Two, the pain and hurt of dysfunctional families goes very deep and often breeds destructive responses.

Third, our increasingly permissive, que sera sera, have fun and party hard, do what feels good society allows it. Adulthood means the discovery and acceptance of identity, purpose, meaning, a set of values and convictions, responsibility, commitment, discipline and more. As these things are delayed, adulthood is delayed. 


The Search Institute has great models and resources for helping teenagers.

One model-resource I found very helpful is their 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. 
These assets are divided into 8 categories. Click on the page and scroll down through and see the things they talk about. 
What Clark and Powell summarize in their book is this:

  • The typical teen has 19 of these assets in place.
  • However, 31 assets is the benchmark number. That number marks the line for whether a teen is going to do well or struggle.
  • The older the teen gets, the lower the number of available assets.
  • And boys have lower numbers of assets available than girls.

Pretty striking stuff.
Especially when you read the list to see what those assets are.

Pray for those who work with TEENS.
Pray for many more adults to have a heart to become MENTORS for teens.
Pray for our TEENS, for their future, their well being, for God to be generous and gracious, and for healing, help and hope they need.

Be sure to check our Deep Ministry in a Shallow World. A good read, an easy read, a practical and challenging read.

Check out this great report, Strengthening Executive Functioning in Children.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International