Descriptions of teenagers in American popular culture are riddled with clichés and stereotypes. A simple search on the Internet proves this to be true. Words such as obnoxious, rebellious, lazy, and egocentric will stand out in the results. In a blog post, “5 Reasons Why Teenagers Are Terrifying,” teenagers are described as “these terrifying bundles of rowdy emotion [who] cannot be controlled or confronted with logic.” This might make you chuckle, but sadly this is what our society—and far too often the church—sees and accepts as the norm for adolescents; but the Bible commands, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). 

Maranatha was quite different from what it is now when I joined as a sixth grader. There were not more than 15 to 20 teenagers, almost all from Tenth, and Carroll Wynne was the longtime director. From the beginning Carroll always emphasized the fact that teenagers are not second-class citizens and are valuable members of the church, able to actively participate in living out God’s Word. We had a lot of fun while also studying the Bible in a deeper capacity than other youth groups or camps that I visited. Perhaps what resonated most strongly with me about Maranatha was the sincere commitment of the leaders. I remember Betty Harpur sitting in a car with me during the winter retreat, encouraging me through a tough situation. I always felt loved and valued even during times that I look back now and think, “Wow, I was so ridiculous” or “Why was that such a big deal?” The commitment did not stop after I graduated from Maranatha. When my dad was hospitalized and eventually unresponsive, it was Maranatha leaders who not once but twice, on no notice at all, made the two-hour drive to pick me up from college and bring me back home to be with my dad before he died.

When I returned to Philadelphia, I knew that if I were to attend Tenth, I wanted to encourage and serve the teens in Maranatha just as these things had been done for me. In the time since I joined the leadership team, Maranatha has grown immensely. It is flourishing with teenagers not only from Tenth but also from all over the Philadelphia area. What a blessing! We encourage them to use the unique gifts God has given them during this time in their lives. There are things that teenagers have to offer that many children and adults cannot, such as the combination of physical strength and a seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm. People often point out that teenagers tend to get worked up over things that aren’t a big deal. I have found that is often a blessing if that energy is guided correctly. You should see the enthusiasm with which Maranatha students complete what adults might consider mundane tasks! I have worked under three different directors. Each has brought their own personality to the youth group but the main focus and core values have remained the same: to teach the gospel, to show how to apply it by modeling Christ’s faithful love, and to build relationships. The leaders strongly desire to come alongside and support parents as they raise their teens. As part of the leadership team, I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to witness—and, Lord willing, even contribute to—the emotional and spiritual (and of course physical!) growth of the youth of Tenth Church from the start of middle school to high school graduation and beyond. 

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