Are youth better at change than adults?

sad dog FreeImages.com/Trisha Shears
"I hate change," one of my youth group members once said to me. "If change was a dog, I'd run over it."
 
I don't remember what provoked such a strong reaction, but this statement of hers has always stuck with me. It's made me reconsider some of my presumptions about youth and change.
 
For one thing, I used to assume that younger people like change more than...well, people my age do. But it may not be true. It may be, instead, that those things that are "change" to me are "what I grew up with" for them. For teenagers, anything developed within the last 10 years is simply the way things are, isn't it? It's not that they adapt to technology, or the social structure, or new liturgies; it's that this is what they've known or been taught since they were 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years old.
 
For another thing, I used to assume change came naturally to youth because they experience so much of it. The fact is youth are going through an incredible number of changes at an amazing rate, very few of which are under their control. They don't get to choose when they grow taller; whether they need braces or not; what classes are required for them; and (more often than not) what rules are established by teachers or parents. And, to add to that last point, the rules change all the time, certainly from year to year, but often from hour to hour and classroom to classroom. It's not that change comes naturally; it may simply be that change is the only option.
 
And so I no longer make the assumption that I can try anything and that youth will be fine with it because "youth are good at change." Whether we're starting a new program or project for youth or adults, or changing an existing one, I think it's important to communicate what we are doing and why; ask for and respect honest feedback; make sure we have buy-in; and adapt as needed.
 
 

Tags: