Saturday, October 1, 2011


"In scientific terms, teenagers can be a pain in the ass. But they are quite possibly the most fully, crucially adaptive human beings around." -- David Dobbs

                    That quote is from an article* that describes some studies about brain development in adolescents and comes to some interesting conclusions. I didn't agree with everything Mr. Dobbs had to say, but he made some interesting points.

  • Teenagers put more weight on rewards than on risks. So if they see a potential reward, especially a social one, they will go for it even at great risk to their safety. But they do know the risks and will often take precautions.
  • Teenagers are easily influenced, quite moldable really. But adults need to take care, coaching from the sidelines, rather than being directive. If you tell a teen what to be interested in, chances are they will run the other way. But it should be that way, shouldn't it? At this age they should be discovering their own interests, their own path. We just need to hold the reigns enough so they do it safely.
  • Teens are more interested in what their friends think than in what adults have to say. No surprise there.
  • Teens fear social rejection more than anything else. Their brains are wired to tell them that their whole future depends on acceptance.
These kids are learning to adapt to adult life. They are searching for ways to fit into society and preparing to move from home into the wider world.

By the way, I don't think teenagers are a pain in the ______. I quite enjoy their company. Oh, they have their moments, but who doesn't?

What implications do you see these ideas having for youth ministry? Do we need to change things so that adults are more mentors and cheerleaders than directors? Can groups find ways to offer real social rewards that are not handed out because of risk-taking behavior? How do we help kids facing rejection because of their faith? Have you had any successes in these areas?

I'd love to get a discussion going around this.

* Dobbs, David, "Beautiful Teenage Brains", National Geographic,October 2011, Pg. 36

I am partipating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge this month. This is my first post. I will get to 31!


  1. Melinda,

    I have a 19 year old and a 14 year old. Both boys. I can agree with all of your points. :) Yes there are times they feel like a pain in the ___, but we always have to remember they are the future.

    Sadly I have no comment on how to use this in ministry, but I wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. Best of luck with the challenge. I think it will be a blast. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment. Yes, they are the future. I think we'll have a great time with the challenge, too.