One day while I was on Facebook, I came across an article titled “Science Says Parents of Successful Kids Have These 13 Things in Common” posted on my friend’s timeline, and it caught my attention. Being a parent myself, I wanted to see if I was following a good formula. The article had the following thirteen things that parents of successful kids do:
- They make their kids do chores.
- They teach their kids social skills.
- They have high expectations.
- They have healthy relationships with each other.
- They’ve attained higher educational levels.
- They teach their kids math early on.
- They develop a relationship with their kids.
- They’re less stressed.
- They value effort over avoiding failure.
- The moms work.
- They have a higher socioeconomic status.
- They are ‘authoritative’ rather than ‘authoritarian’ or ‘permissive.’
- They teach ‘grit.’
I particularly enjoyed reading number 3, and 9. I felt pretty good about my success rate with my teen, but then I realized that not every teen has a parental figure able to help them succeed. Parents are often stressed, and they don’t know how to have productive relationships with their teens. I thought further about those young people on the streets who were kicked out of their homes for being LGBTQI. Who teaches them social skills, high expectations, or how to value effort over avoiding failure.
As youth advocates, ministers, and leaders, we are sometimes the next best person—if not the only person—helping a teen find hope. Both in a secular setting and in youth ministry, we strive to teach young people to listen, and we show them to solve problems both inside and outside the classroom. We do a lot of grace-based coaching and then we stand in awe when we are occasionally honored to see God’s transforming power through them.
When I recently read Luke 7:12-14, I felt God was talking to me about teens. I particularly like the way The Message puts it: “Invite the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned — oh it will be returned.”
Teens are are a group from whom we largely can’t expect anything in return. We sometimes won’t even see the fruits of our labor quickly enough for our egos or even know if our message is sticking in their sometimes Teflon-like minds. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit reaches through our lives as spiritual mentors and leaders to change the faith and the narrative of a young person who needs guidance.
Through silly games, lock-ins, mission trips, pizza, and covered chocolate marshmallows, may they see how much love and admiration we have for them. May young people feel Christ embodied through us, and may they feel the love and warmth of a congregation and community willing to stand with them and show them God’s unconditional love.
The Rev. Yadi Martínez-Reyna (M.Div.) is bilingual Latinx gender non-binary artist, a borderlander, and founder of Color Splash Out™, a non profit organization dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth and their ally friends. Yadi was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley in the frontera of Brownsville and Matamoros Mexico. Yadi is certified as as Spiritual Director through the Art of Spiritual Direction at Still Point, NM and member of Spiritual Directors International (SDI).
Rev. Yadi serves as a Pastor at First UCC in 2nd Life, UCC. They have a Masters in Divinity (M.Div.) and a Latino/a studies certification from Brite Divinity School located at TCU in Ft. Worth, Texas. Yadi holds an Associate Degree in Graphic Design and Multi-Media.
Yadi serves as an LGBTQIA Facilitator with twenty years of experience working with young people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area. Their work includes using arts and networking skills to create community events, retreats, leadership conferences, safe space training, and creating empowering trips for young people.