At-Risk Teens Need Love Before Lectures, Theology Dean Says
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Steve Gerali has been around at-risk teenagers long enough that even the definition of “at-risk” has changed.
What once indicated an imminent divorce at home or sneaking cigarettes at school now describes much more serious issues, and youth ministers need an active understanding of sociology and pop culture in order to be effective, Gerali says.
“There’s a liquid definition of at-risk,” the dean of GCU’s College of Theology told a group of students, faculty, alumni and pastors Monday night at the latest installment of the college’s lecture series on campus.
“You need to be able to assess things correctly. The place to start is with love and affection for the kid — and not with the issue. I want to be part of a church that’s more loving than right.”
Youth ministers should know teens better than teens know themselves, Gerali said, and that begins with an understanding of adolescence and its five dimensions (physical, intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual). The key life transition kicks in at about age 11 and doesn’t end until the early 20s.
“Adolescence is a point in life when everything is being challenged (by teens),” said Gerali, who began working in youth ministry in the 1970s and still considers himself a youth pastor at heart.
“We have to let kids own their faith by raising issues — and not resolving them (for them). In churches, we generally don’t do that. But that should be part of who we are.”
Gerali cited Christ’s words from Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. … In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
For those working with teens, Gerali said, that involves “putting love before right, and putting good before truth.”
The next session in the series will be a panel discussion on pastoral skills, taking place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, in the College of Nursing lecture hall.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].