All Stressed Out

Brad M. Griffin | Jan 11, 2010

Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade.

That statement accompanies a recent release from the American Psychological Association (APA) about the results of their Stress in America Survey, which targeted both adults and youth. Of the 1,206 youth who participated, kids report being more stressed than ever. But whats worse, parents dont seem to know about their kids stress or its impact. Kids are more likely to say they are worried about family finances and school pressure than parents know, and kids report having more physical symptoms of stress than parents know.

The bottom line, according to this survey: close to half of U.S. teens (13-17) were more stressed this year and showed more physical signs of stress. Yet less than 1/3 of parents are aware of the increase in stress or symptoms. Perhaps its because parental stress is also on the rise and has even more physical manifestations, making parents somewhat oblivious to their kids issues.

Either way, perhaps right up there with drugs and sex we should be equally concerned about the impact of stress on students in our ministries. Which leads to a few check-in questions:

  • Are we aware of how stressed students actually feel, and what the sources of their worry tend to be?
  • Are we aware of the physical impact of stress on students?
  • Are we helping parents become more aware of their kids stress?
  • Do we consider teenage stress legitimate or not as real as adult stressors (in other words, do we write off their anxieties or fail to affirm how real they are in kids lives?)
  • How much does our ministry contribute to students stress levels?
  • Do we over-program and/or raise expectations for participation in ways that make youth ministry another stressor in kids and families lives?
  • Do we make youth group more about performance and expectation or encounter with the living God?
  • Are we creating space for downtime in kids lives?
  • Are we equipping students to recognize and counteract the impact of stress?

To be fair, those questions probably arent best answered with a yes or no but on a continuum. But perhaps this list can be a starting point for evaluating with your team how well you are noticing, responding to, and maybe even contributing to stress in the lives of the kids you love and serve.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.

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