Our culture has an odd approach to teenagers. We tend to treat them like they have little value.
I've even seen store clerks ignore teens passing over them in line to help adults who came later.
I have long heard and read laments about teens. It's really rather sad to witness such negativity about adolescents. This is especially so when you actually work with teens and know that they are not just by and large very good and hard-working people, but also fun to be around and have much to offer. The Bible evidences that God "got" this and knows teenagers' worth and importance. For example, David as an adolescent was entrusted by God to take on Goliath and save Israel. And Mary as a young teen was picked by God to give birth to Jesus. And, of course, Jesus led religious discussions at the Temple when he was 12. In short, the Bible evidences teens have much value to God and they can do great things.
And God is right. I know. I have spent many a summer working with teens as we put on full-length theatre productions. Being in a play is hard work. It takes discipline and skill, smarts and bravery, creatively and empathy in order to learn lines, speak loud, develop character, interact with others and stand before crowds to weave together with others a three-dimensional story.
This summer we are working on Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" to be performed at our church the last two weekends of July. Fifteen adolescents and almost as many adults are plugging away, working hard as cast and crew to pull together a complex beautifully poetic play written 400 years ago.
And words are not the only beauty in this production. Watching the teens work side by side as equals with adults and each other is not just amazing from a technical standpoint, but, year in and year out, our the productions are filled with mutual respect and compassion.
Our group's hope (and motto) is to connect youth and community through the performing arts.
But you know what? More than that always occurs; youth and community end up being connected through love every year. Love of art. Love of play. Love of acting. But most of all love of one another, old and young alike.
In these productions, we do not preach or require the teens to believe in anything other than themselves. They just need to show up and do the work and play. We provide a safe place, the resources and caring adult mentors.
Mix all that together and, without fail, love shows up. Since God is love, it's very spiritual and it's very beautiful. And teens primarily generate it.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.