The abandonment of today’s teens is Chap Clark’s foremost platform. When he wrote Hurt, he spoke plainly about his intentional research experience as a long-term substitute in a public high school. He peeled off the layers of the hubris between teens and the adults in their lives. He opened many adult eyes to the institutional and societal abandonment of adolescents. He voiced a contrarian opinion to popular voices on the success of today’s teens. He raised a great number of questions that he didn’t answer.
When Kids Hurt is an exploration of the answers to those unanswered questions. In many ways, readers of Hurt will see it as an extended appendix to Hurt, a lengthy memo pasted into the cover. We are going to spend four weeks diving into the themes presented in both of these books, using When Kids Hurt as our primary source.
Part One: Kids’ Brave New World
Is Adolescence THAT much different from when I was a teenager?
Defining adolescence is trickier than one might expect.A relatively modern invention, adolescence has been elongated on both ends by improved health and the societal expectation of delayed adulthood. While many youth workers assume that young people are struggling with the same issues they dealt with in their younger years, Clarks shows compelling evidence that this assumption is false and dangerous. Adults increasingly rely on institutions and systems to care for their young. Instead of teaching a child a lifestyle of health and wellbeing through example and personal care, they enroll the child in a plethora of busy extracurricular activities to compensate for the care not given. Clark calls for agents of change, individuals to reach into the lives of young people to help them navigate the complexities of 21st Century adolescence, a village of caring adults for every teen.
Questions for your pondering and responding:
1. The post-modern family, as Clark describes, is not only unstable, but centered almost entirely on the needs of the parents and adults (page 41).Parents live vicariously through their children, fail to introduce their children to other healthy adult relationships, and focus on meeting their needs before those of the child. Do you agree with Clark?As we develop ministries to families, how have we failed to call adults out on this failure? How do we play into it?How have you seen this in your ministry context?
2. Clark calls for “agents of change who turn the tide away from systemic abandonment to intentional engagement in the life of today’s teens.”Who can you partner with in your ministry to turn the tide? Who are your allies in this difficult process?
Find more Book Club discussions on When Kids Hurt: