In reading the book Hurt by Chap Clark I focused on some primary themes discussed throughout the book such as the current situation of families, the external and internal systemic abandonment of midadolescents by adults and cultural institutions, and the importance of peer “cluster” groups for the social development of midadolescents. I will point out quotes from the book that interested me and add my commentary that I was able to conclude by reading the book.
Change of the definition of family…”the defintinon of family was radically altered from the institutional longevity of ‘two or more persons related by birth, marriage or adoption who reside in the same household” to the current definition of a free-flowing, organic ‘committment’ between people who love each other. (34)”
Adolescents need a safe and supportive family…”The midadolescent students who struggled the most in nearly every category of adolescent development- for example, self-concept, sexual behavior, substance abuse, and trust in friends and authority figures- almost universally came from a family system in which the home was less than a safe, supportive environment. (104)” “The most important thing for parents to do is to commit to two vital strategies in leading and loving their midadolescent children: to understand them and their world, and to provide them with safe and secure boundaries while still allowing them the necessary room to grow.”
An adolescent’s desire for individiation is normal…”The emerging adolescent seeks to embark on a new journey in development, assert his or her distinctiveness, and move toward an internal locus of control, while at the same time remaining relationally connected as an ongoing member of the family system and community. (28).
The external and internal systemic abandonment of midadolescents:
One of Clark’s main premises of the book is…”we as a society have allowed the institutions and systems originally designed to nurture children and adolescents to lose their missional mandate. In other words, society has systemically abandoned the young. (38)”
Youth organizations have been a part of this abandonment…”Sports, music, dance, drama, Scouts, and even faith-related programs are all guilty of ignorngthe developmental needs of each individual young person in favor of the organization’s goals. (47)”
Middle adolescents have a response to their abandonment…”Middle adolescents band together to create their own world where they hold the keys to dealing with their perception of abandonment and their need for relational stability, protection, social guidance, and belonging. (54)”
The importance of peer cluster groups to adolescents today:
Many high school students have a closer sense of family with their closest peers…In the book, Clark records stories of many high school students. One of them said, “Sure, a lot of friends come and go, but I’ve been fortunate enough to develop amazing relationships with a selct few- a few who aren’t afraid to risk hurting my feelings so as not to let me get into things I shouldn’t be getting into, afew with whom I can be completely real without fear of ridicule, friends who could sit there and listen to my problems for hours just because the care and know that I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love my blood-related family, but my friens are really more my family than my family. (77)”
I think midadolescents are engaged in conditioned social consumerism, based on Clark’s observations that…”clusters are subconsciously chosen according to who will make one feel the most welcome and safe with the least amount of work and stress. (84)”
Adults should be aware of creating false or conflicting roles and expectations on teenagers…”Teens will perform as necessary to fulfill the roles they have been cast to play, but for many how they appear on the outside is far different from the driving sense of place and home they crave on the inside. (86)”
In conclusion, after reading Hurt by Chap Clark was a good experience for me as a youth ministry leader because it helped me ask questions such as “How has my church been involved in the abandonment of adolescents?” “How do I define family?” “How do we get teens and adults to see the church as their ultimate family?” I believe that these questions cannot be simply answered, but that I am excited to begin working them out practically in my own church ministry context. I do agree that midadolescents are experiencing individual and cultural phenomena’s unseen by older generations, that it is important for adults and parents to help their teenagers feel loved and accepted in their quest for their individual identity and value creation, and we need to pose questions to students instead of being highly critical or directive in being a part of their mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and academic formation. I would also note that Clark seems very critical towards adults, but I think that I slightly understand his bias and that churches need to be proactive in encouraging parents to lead their families with Christ-centered, biblical values and to take small practical steps towards being proactive in engaging their children in this critical time of development.