Youth Ministry

Don’t try your twenties on your own

By Ratti Mashego for SUmag

“Hello! And welcome to your twenties!”

At times, I wish someone had greeted me that warmly when I entered this life phase. It’s just so exciting, so fluid, and also so very uncertain. The truth is that very few people feel prepared for the rollercoaster they are about to embark on as they enter their twenties. I certainly wasn’t.

One thing I’ve learnt so far is that you definitely don’t want to try your ‘twenties’ on your own.

Going into high school, I knew that I would get on better with some people than others. Much like everyone around me, I was also wildly insecure about things that I didn’t want people to know about me. Because if we’re honest, we all have a tendency towards wanting to keep our private shame a secret. It is a fear though that keeps us from knowing people fully and allowing them to accept us.

Looking back I can see that there are two main things that really helped me at school and are now getting me through my ‘twenties’ as well.


Family really can help, especially when you learn that God’s idea of family is not only limited to people who share the same blood as you. At school, I began to understand that choosing the right company was the single most important skill I needed to develop. I learnt to recognise those who were edifying, who would challenge me and be challenged by me, who would stand with me when the walls seemed to be closing in around me, who would allow me to be a brother to them, and who would not keep score.

It was a skill that my parents desired for me to have and retrospectively I completely understand why it meant so much to them. We are social beings and the truth is that we can miss the fullness of where we could be if we surround ourselves with the wrong types of people.

The other thing also came via my parents.


Now this doesn’t mean that I was always ‘that’ Christian person at school. Quite interestingly for the first year of being at high school, I never attended Christian Fellowship. But I knew that God was always there and that He would never let me go through life alone.

My Christian friendships grew throughout high school and all knew was that I wanted to know more about Jesus. Despite this renewed interest in the Jesus of my childhood, I never read the Bible. I mean I owned one, and I knew where all the popular scriptures were (John 3:16 etc.) but I never once set my mind to reading the rest. The stuff that wasn’t on coffee mugs and bookmarks. And I just don’t know why. I only really started doing this on my gap year.

Now to put the first few years of my university life simply, I didn’t enjoy my degree. I have struggled to understand why following the word of God has led to the place where I just don’t enjoy what I’m doing. I’m still working through this one.

Truthfully if you’re in your twenties with me right now I would be so happy for you (but genuinely surprised) if you feel happy with what you chose. In this period, we are prone to want to change, modify, and even run away from the choices we’ve made to try make new “better” ones. But the thing is, we’re in our twenties.

If there’s anything that I’ve learnt about myself, it’s that I am extremely flaky. But also, that God really isn’t. God has been so faithful in teaching me about Himself, the world and the people in my life at present. He has never let me down. God will never let us down, no matter how turbulent the twenties get.

So, to you in your twenties I say, “Hello! And welcome to your twenties! Walk this road with God, and walk it with your family. You are not an island, and you will be okay.”

Three tips when working with Teens










By Tim Jarvis for SUMag
OK, working with teenagers is not easy, even someone with the leadership skills of Scott of the Antarctic, the personality of Oprah Winfrey and the moral authority of Nelson Mandela would have a hard time convincing adolescents to get up on time in the morning or tidy their room. As an adolescent even Jesus made his parents angry. But working with teenagers is good for you and great for your faith too as we will see. So where do you start? Here are a few tips that might help:
Yes I know this is difficult. Some days (weeks) I don’t even like my own children let alone other peoples. If you are a teacher you can’t like all of them and certainly you can’t like all of them all the time. But if adolescents don’t actually feel we view them positively we will have little favourable influence on their lives. It is highly unlikely that an adolescent is going to remember even 1% of what you teach them, but they are going to remember how you made them feel. This doesn’t mean you have to be nice to them continuously but they have to understand that you have their best interests at heart. In his book ‘Brainstorm’ Dan Siegel warns that we must be careful of seeing adolescence as a time just to be endured and instead appreciate the importance and value of this age and stage. The good news is you can practice liking teens (try it) and improve your ability to do this. If you really don’t like them and feel you can’t get better, then don’t work with them.
In their book ‘Nurtureshock’, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman expressed the following sentiment that I believe is more often true than not. “If your teenager isn’t arguing with you then they are lying to you.” From my perspective, if a teen takes time to argue with you it’s a sign of respect. You are significant enough to them that they want your approval or permission and they value you enough to seek your validation of their opinions or behaviour. You don’t have to, by the way, but if we don’t allow space for this dialogue then our teens are going to politely lie to our faces as we read them the rule book and quietly get on with exactly what they want to do (actually not so much quietly, just out of earshot). I hate to say it but the primary school days of control (if they existed at all) are over.
An adolescent is in the important business of establishing their identity, working out who they are. A big part of that involves establishing their difference and in turn a big part of that involves distancing themselves from the views of the adults in their lives. Disagreement is natural and necessary. Because of this dynamic, if we insist on always being right we risk driving our students further away from us. The following quote expresses this well, “Parents who have taken up all the space of moral rightness should not be surprised when their sons find their only space by living in immorality” John and Paula Sandford. Of course this applies to girls as well and also to all adults working closely with teenagers. It’s important to give adolescents their ever growing say, this is one of the reasons why student voice is so important in school. We need to give our teens a little leeway while maintaining appropriate boundaries.
What do these three things mean for you? I would suggest that each point in turn requires us to be loving, courageous and humble, exactly what we are called to be. Adolescence is a time of great change and positive development. In turn it requires us to be open to change and development in our own faith and lives. Teenagers may think they are God’s gift to the world, well perhaps they are. The opportunity for us to grow is the gift teens give to us, let’s enjoy it and them.