Today’s Table Talk is by Andy Braner. We are super blessed to have him share from his vast knowledge about the teen scene. It’s important for us as parents to know what’s going on so we can love and raise our kids well. His new book, Alone, Finding Connection in a Lonely World was released this past Monday. Check it out and let him know what you think – on Facebook or on his Blog. Who knows?… we might learn something about ourselves, too.

Thanks for sharing, Andy! … and thanks for walking the road with me.


Braner's Alone

When most people think of teenagers, they quickly drift to images of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Adolescents have been branded over the years as tribe of people going through “their phase.”  (Whatever that means.)

What if I told you that sex, drugs, and rock & roll aren’t really the main issues teens deal with?  What if I told you those things we brand kids with are only symptoms of deeper systemic issues?

Sure, more teenagers smoke weed than ever before.

Yes, today’s teen sexual revolution rivals the ‘60s and ‘70s.

And yes, teenagers tend to be the demographic accused of vandalism and misdemeanors.

Yes, we’re obligated to help students understand the effects of their behavior, but the issues above are only the surface.

A major publishing house representative once asked me to name the number one issue for teenagers in the 21st century. She expected to hear low self esteem, or teens face an education crisis, or even something like I’m sure if we could only keep kids from taking drugs we could turn this tide.  But without hesitation, I looked at her and said, “They’re lonely.”

“What?  Lonely?” She said, “They’re on their phones 24/7.  They’ve got Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Skype.  How in the world can any teen today be lonely?”

And I began to de-construct the problem for her.

Of the 900 million profiles on Facebook today, I said, most are honest people trying to connect with other honest people.  But how many times does a person post pictures of the saddest most embarrassing moments of his life?

Nobody does that. Nobody creates a profile of REAL life.  We’d be too embarrassed to show the world EVERYTHING.

So while most people post the “best” pictures of food they ate, or people they met, or some party they went to, deep down something is unsatisfied.    So they wander from their profile to their friend’s profile.

They peruse the pictures their friend posted and think quietly, Man this life is awesome and must be fulfilling, and all the while the friend is thinking the same thing and sneaking peeks of other walls—everyone searching for someone to find meaning with.

You see, we were created to be together.  God made humankind and looked down at Adam and said, “It is good that man be alone?”  When I read that passage of scripture the other day, I thought, but wasn’t God in the garden?  Adam wasn’t alone.  What is God trying to say here?    And, I think He’s trying to say, ‘I love you but I created you for community with humans.’

Jesus says the same thing.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-40

Don’t get me wrong.  Facebook has its place, and Twitter is whimsically important. But how can you love someone without a relationship face-to-face?  No text message can replace celebration with a friend, mourning a tragedy, or the camaraderie when a team wins a big game.

If we’re serious about solving problems that teenagers deal with, we have to address the core issue and stop trying to solve just the symptoms.

Help them fast from Facebook for a while.
Make some time away from the iPhone.
Make sure you provide your teens places where they can meet new people, re-enforce old relationships, or try new adventures.

As parents, THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do is creating places where we can connect with our kids.  If they like to play basketball, try and join them.  If they like to play golf then at the very least walk with them through a course.  If your kids like to play video games, sit down and learn how.

You’ll be surprised how many peripheral issues resolve as we help students connect to a personal spiritual walk, the people around them, and the world at large.

There’s no replacement for relationship.  That’s just the way it is.

Andy Braner, President KIVU, Author:  ALONE, Finding Connection in a Lonely World, is an ordained youth minister and former president of Kanakuk Colorado. Currently, he is the president of KIVU, a ministry that teaches Christian worldview principles to teens and college students in the context of outdoor adventures. Each year, Andy speaks to more than 80,000 teens and college students all over the world. His message centers around training global leaders to love God and love others.

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