Give Life to Your Story: Loving Teenagers and Swimming with Sharks

27 Dec 2019 Carrie Jussely
Carrie Jussely moved to Tuscaloosa Oct. 1 to join the Youth for Christ staff. She is a native Mississippian, she loves old books, and she proudly holds aunt bragging rights to 7 tiny Jusselys. You can reach her at Carrie@TuscaloosaYFC.com. Carrie Jussely moved to Tuscaloosa Oct. 1 to join the Youth for Christ staff. She is a native Mississippian, she loves old books, and she proudly holds aunt bragging rights to 7 tiny Jusselys. You can reach her at Carrie@TuscaloosaYFC.com. Carrie Jussely

In its 11 seasons on air, I’m sure many or most of you have caught an episode of TV’s Shark Tank. Entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to the “Sharks” – a panel of “self-made, filthy-rich investors” – seeking a Shark’s investment in exchange for equity in their venture.

The entrepreneurs have given everything they have to this idea. Many quit their jobs, have taken out loans, invested their life-savings; they’ve given everything because they believe their idea is something worth it - but without an investor to help them grow their visibility, sales, or marketing – most can’t continue. Their future hangs upon their moment in “the Tank.”

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.  

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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