Will they pick on me for my shoes? Why do I never get chosen for the “good” team? What do I have to do to get them to like me?
Have you ever heard questions like these from a teenager you know? If you answered yes, then it’s likely that your teenager is struggling with their sense of Belonging.
Teenagers are a walking bundle of questions. Some are shared, and many are just bouncing around their heads. According to the Fuller Youth Institute there are three big questions that undergird them all. These are the questions of Identity, Belonging, and Purpose.
- “Who am I?”
- “Where do I fit in?”
- “What difference can I make in the world?”
How can we help teenagers navigate these three questions?
Perhaps more importantly, does God have anything to say about these questions?
In this article, we’re going to tackle what the Bible says about how we can BELONG. If you’ve just joined us make sure to check out Part 1 where we looked at Identity and stay tuned for Part 3 where we’ll take a look at Purpose.
We’re all looking for a place to BELONG—a tribe to be a part of. As social creatures, we are wired for connection.
There are reports that suggest loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The former U.S. surgeon general has said “loneliness is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, and dementia.”
You wouldn’t be successful trying to play a game of footy alone. Who would you pass the ball to? How would you break through the other team’s defence? Similarly, when it comes to the game of life, none of us can do it alone. We are designed to be a part of a collective group.
DOES GOD HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY?
In the Bible in 1 Peter 2:9, God speaks to our deep need to belong. It says,
Don’t be scared off by that strange language. Hang in there, I promise it’s worth it.
God says that when you trust Him you are not just an individual anymore. You BELONG. You BELONG to a Race, a Priesthood, a Nation, and His own People.
This is a race that isn’t defined by skin colour, a priesthood where you don’t need to wear strange clothes, and a nation where the borders are open to anyone through Jesus. The message is clear – anyone can BELONG to God’s special people. All of us can find a place to BELONG in God’s Kingdom.
Often we might think about religion or Christianity as a personal decision or a private thing that we do on Sundays. It’s one of the things that you don’t often talk about at parties. You keep it to yourself. But that completely undercuts what Jesus wants His people to be. Jesus calls us all to BELONG. Not just to Him but to others as well.
Elsewhere in the Bible, it says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” While our bodies have many individual parts, each part belongs to all the other parts and couldn’t be a complete body without them.
You don’t see many hands walking around on their own. Neither do you see many tongues flapping around on the ground trying to catch a train, do you?
God designed the human body to have many parts working together to make up our bodies. Likewise, God planned for His people to come together and find a place and a people to belong to. That’s what we call the Church. If you couldn’t think about life without your left arm, how can you think about a life without belonging to a community like the Church?
TEENAGERS AND THE QUEST TO BELONG
This generation is perhaps the most connected and disconnected generation in history. They carry their friends in their pockets for most of the day and yet struggle with how to actually interact with them.
Teenagers often feel cut adrift from their peers for what we might consider trivial reasons. There is no worse fate in the mind of a 14-year-old girl than being “left on-read”. It’s easy to be misunderstood, written off, excluded, or even dehumanized when you appear as just a static image on an app rather than a real flesh-and-blood human being. In an instant young people can now tear down a decade-long relationship. Where does that leave them when they need to belong?
We need to help teenagers understand that they need a community of people around them. They need a nation of people that aren’t just like them.
When all of their peers leave them “on read”, they need people that will listen to them and care about what they have to say. When their family is falling apart, they need to understand that they can be a part of the human family, the family of God. Even if everything in their life is going well, teenagers need people from every generation to help them understand the world better. That’s exactly what the Church represents.
Think about it, where else could you go to meet and get to know people from every sphere of life. Where else do lawyers, mechanics and chicken farmers mix socially? Where else do single mums, surgeons and uni students share a coffee? Where else can school students get to know their teachers and even their Principal on a first name basis? All of these things can and do happen on a regular basis at our church. It can be uncomfortable or even awkward at times, but it is a place where anyone can BELONG. And that’s what all of us need, especially our teenagers.
If you’ve been away from church for a while or have no conception of what church is all about I’d recommend the book “Why We Love the Church.” It gives a refreshing overview of what the church is, warts and all while helping you to understand why you would ever want to go to one. If you’d like to come along and check out church to see if it is a place where you could belong, we meet every Sunday in the GPAC at 9am. Come along and meet the family.
Join us again next week as we look at the question of PURPOSE and how God offers us a life worth living and how we can pass that onto the teenagers we do life with every day.
If you’re interested in exploring these topics in more depth, check out 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. You can even download the first chapter for free.
Isaiah Logan, College Pastor