Endow: Affirming Teens in their God-Given Dignity

It is a rough time to be a teenager. The combined pressures of school, relationships, social media, and a constant negative news cycle are bearing down heavily on this generation. Teenagers today are lonelier and more depressed than ever before. According to a recent study, the number one reason why teen depression rates are so high is social media use. This is closely related to the second reason, which is that “sociality” is down.  According to the article “Why American Teens Are So Sad” that recently appeared in the Atlantic: ‘Teenagers (and teenage girls in particular) are uniquely sensitive to the judgment of friends, teachers, and the digital crowd.’

A related concern is not the social media itself, but the activities that social media replaces. In the article, Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, states: “It’s well established that what protects teens from stress is close social relationships.” It is becoming clear that as social media use replaces time spent with peers, the resulting isolation is having a serious detrimental effect on our teenagers.

While in some ways it may be easier to shrug off these problems as someone else’s responsibility because we feel small and powerless against these seismic social forces, we also need to realize that as Christians, this is not an option. It’s not an option to just wait and see what will happen to these little ones.

As Christians, we are called to love our teens, and in doing so, to help them see their dignity and value as beloved children of the Father. Easy to say, hard to do. Because, as any parent knows, you can’t just tell a teenager anything and expect your words to reach deep into her heart and soul. Rather, she has to comprehend it for herself—hearing, understanding and then adopting the knowledge into her personal world view, making the truth her own and allowing it to inform her ideas, decisions and actions. And just how, exactly, do we go about helping her to do that?

At Endow, we have come to understand that the best way for a teenager (or any person!) to learn and take hold of fundamental truths is through talking it out with other people. In discussing and dissecting an idea with others, a person can internalize information in a way that just hearing it cannot replicate. Through discussion and sometimes even debate, she discovers not only the truth of what she thinks, but also learns to see things from various perspectives. She is able to form relationships–lasting, meaningful relationships–based on that thirst for knowledge, building a foundation for true happiness.

For this reason, Endow set out to create a study series specifically for high school-aged girls. We believe that these young women deserve to know the truth, and deserve a chance to make it their own. While there are many great resources that teach the truths of the Catholic faith, this series is unique in that it teaches not just the ‘what’ of the faith, but also the ‘why’ and specifically, why it is so important to a teenage girl. Our aim is to help her to know why to care, why the faith matters to her, right now, at this pivotal moment in her life.

With this goal in mind, we chose four major themes on which to center our studies—Created for Love, Created for Community, Created for Holiness and Created for Mission. Each of these four studies focuses on different relationships that help to give purpose to our lives. In Created for Love, the major focus is on the individual relationship with God—helping to demonstrate what it means to be created in God’s image, and the implications of seeing all of humanity this way.

In Created for Community, we look at how each of the major categories of relationships (family, friends, significant others, etc.) helps us to be the person God intended us to be. We see how our communities help define who we are, and how we help to define our community.

In Created for Holiness, we examine the universal call to Holiness, both in itself and in the context of vocation. Since most teens are single, we also take time to think about how a person can live her unique call to holiness in any state in life and even as a young, single person.

In Created for Mission, we take a broader look at our wider communities, helping girls to see how their desire to impact the larger world around them flows from their identity as a daughter of God. Presenting the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching, this study helps teens to think through how they can personally impact the different layers of community in which they live and move.

Each of these four studies uses the lives of the Saints to illustrate their themes, showing how different Saints (St. Teresa of Avila, St. Josephine Bakhita, St Maria Goretti, among others) lived their call to holiness individually and uniquely, but in full appreciation of the Gospel. Through examining the lives of these influential women (and some men), the girls begin to see how their own path to holiness will involve their unique and unrepeatable personality, gifts and talents, enabling them to complete their own particular mission in the world. The stories of these Saints allow the ideas of the chapters to come alive, giving concrete examples of how to live these truths in a very real way.

Our teenagers challenge us. They push us to think and re-think, and give us both fear and hope for the future. The time has come for us to challenge them—by presenting them the truth of the Gospel and allowing them to wrestle with these truths until they become a part of their being. Challenge your teen to join an Endow discussion group. Encourage her to invite her friends, and encourage your friends to send their daughters. Consider signing up to lead a group, if you feel called—Endow is here to help with any questions, we promise—because all of our daughters deserve to know how much God loves them, and what a marvelous and fulfilling life He has in store for them, if only they give Him a chance.

Learn more at https://www.endowgroups.org/study-guides-for-youth/ or reach out to us at [email protected] today!

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Teresa Hodgins calls Indianapolis, Indiana home base for many adventures with her husband and three young children. In her spare time, she serves as a host, writer and occasional project manager for Endow. Teresa attended Thomas Aquinas College for her B.A., and the University of Notre Dame for a Masters of Theological Studies in Moral Theology. She has served as both youth minister and high school Theology teacher prior to raising children and joining Endow.

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