As entrepreneurs enter to give their pitch, I feel my nerves rise with theirs. Some are so nervous as they begin and seemingly forget English altogether; others speak so quickly they can’t be understood. As I watch, I feel myself growing more and more tense. But, why? Why do I connect with this moment? I’ve never entered a room to face America’s most famous business investors, and I’ve never entered ANY room in my life to request half a million dollars…
Then it comes to me: loving teenagers can feel a lot like entering the Shark Tank. I’ve worked in student ministry for 19 years. I’ve entered countless rooms full of teenagers, holding out to them an opportunity to be part of Something. It’s Something I believe in, Something I have given my life and whole heart to, Something I think is worth it: Faith. But those rooms are hard to read. Much like the Sharks mid-pitch, the faces staring back at me can look blank or disinterested. Hello? Anyone listening? Anyone care? Are you playing it cool? Am I not interesting enough? Not funny enough?
How do we know if we’re getting through to kids, especially when they’ve perfected that “Shark” look of indifference? It’s tempting to believe we must be entertaining or impressive to make any difference in their lives – especially when competing with the bombarding, constant stream of texts, Snapchats, and Instastories. We worry they’re missing the big messages in life because the small, trivial ones are louder or flashier.
My favorite Shark Tank moments, though, are when the “script is flipped.” The Sharks see high value and great potential in the investment, and suddenly the entrepreneur goes from fearing a shark attack to having the advantage. The Sharks begin battling it out, trying to win the Entrepreneur and score the best partnership. The entrepreneur thought they needed a Shark… but perhaps the Sharks needed them all along.
Teenagers are Sharks at detecting intentions, sniffing out sincerity or duplicity in seconds. They’re always listening – listening for love. We think we’re fighting to convince them they need us, but beneath the shark façade is just a kid who desperately wants unconditional love – an investment the world can’t offer. Teenagers need your honest reminders of what is true and worth holding onto, because in a dark ocean of false messages, only love lights the way back home to shore.