This is sort of what I've heard (and sadly probably taught):
If you're going to follow Jesus you have to die-to-self (which the bible never really says, you can't crucify yourself, you can't bury yourself, you can't deny yourself or carry a cross if you die, and it says we die to sin not self, ) anyway once you're done doing that, you should also do things that build your self-esteem and improve yourself as a person. (wait I though Jesus made me righteous and holy before God already when he paid for my sin, how can I improve on that)
Jesus is made strong in your weakness, now give all your gifts and abilities and live for Jesus (wait I thought he was going to show himself in my weaknesses, not my abilities).
Knowledge and wisdom come from the Holy spirit, now go to seminary and read everything everyone has written and said about that so that you can write slick sermons and teach it to everyone else. (wait, don't they all have the holy Spirit to give them knowledge and wisdom too)
"Lost people" need to hear the gospel, but don't hang around with people who drink, smoke, swear, watch the Simpsons, listen to the radio, have an x-box, are GLBT, don't go to church or have ever gotten lost in the woods, like the show Lost, or put up posters saying they lost their cat. (wait, that only leave us... and some of us are out)
Do you think any of our teens (or anyone else for that matter) are confused by the mixed message they get from "the church"? No wonder skeptics argue the bible contradicts itself, it's because we contradict ourselves.
I think I am as confused as the teens (apparently I'm supposed to have this figured out so I can help them figure it out... uh oh!). I never had good self-esteem growing up. I was kind of chubby (still am), kind of poor (still am), my family was kind of messed up (still is) and I thought very little of myself (still do some days). I didn't have much to be confident about except that I could drink a lot and make people laugh by acting like an idiot (which isn't really a useful skill unless you want to be a professional extra for bar scenes in Hollywood). I didn't know anything about God, so had very little purpose. All the messages I got from the world were that I had to improve myself in order to measure up to someone else and get ahead.
That's not the message Jesus had though, he actually says we get to turn away from all those stupid ideas, surrender them to him and let Him replace them with Him. That is the place we have esteem,value and worth. I used to try to find worth in my basketball ability. Then when I realized I was never going to make it to the NBA, or to the D division provincial tournament, I started to look for worth in my musical ability. No gold records yet. Not looking there anymore. But Jesus gave me a different place to look, not to myself but to him. My worth started to come from how much he was willing to give up for me. Not because I could dribble/shoot/pass well, not because I could play guitar and sing, not because I got straight A's (I didn't get straight A's), not because... My worth comes from what Jesus did for me, undeservedly, he calls it Grace.
Is it time to stop giving our kids the false hope that if they finish top of their class, or score the winning goal or get into the right school, whatever other worldly expectation we may put on them, that they'll somehow gain worth. Don't get me wrong, hard work is good, doing things well, very good, using your abilities to glorify God, entirely appropriate. But if we're going to encourage kids to follow Jesus we can't hand them the worlds measuring stick to go with him, if we do that we're setting them up for disappointment. Jesus said strange things like, the first will be last, deny yourself, hate your parents if your choice is them or me (ouch Jesus, that one's tough), don't take the seat of honor, give away the things you've earned...
Here's what I think it boils down to, we want our kids to seem as if they are getting what it means to follow Jesus while hoping that someday, they'll actually get what it means to follow Jesus, then the things we've told them they should do, they'll do naturally. They'll turn into "mature Christians" because they've been practicing it so long, it'll just transfer over. The best part, because we've taught them what Jesus standard is for being a christian (which is usually our standard not his), and they'll have done well by a worldly standard because that's important too, they'll be in place to show Jesus to the world. They'll be self-confident and God-confident at the same time.
Bad news we had some of those already, we called them Pharisees and/or Sadducee's and/or "pagans". Turns out they often get more self-righteous, self-serving and self-reliant.
Here's the message we should give our teens (in my humble opinion, which is obviously important because I'm posting it on the Internet): Jesus loves you, he is everything, listen to the Holy Spirit and follow him completely no matter what we or the world expects from you. Even if you look like an
If they don't get that, the rest is pointless in the end.
Paul said it like this "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. As a messenger, I give each of you this warning: be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you." (Romans 12: 2-4 NLT) He goes on in chapter 12 what that looks like in real life, doing what he's enabled you to do, by what he's given you. Not by you improving yourself, not by constantly trying to die-to-self, not by much of anything you do if fact. Just by what the Holy Spirit is doing in you.
God, transforms us, God shows us what to do, God gives us faith, that's enough.