It’s Wednesday evening at Providence Wesleyan Church (PWC). Three teens sit on the coffee counter while others sporadically arrive. Cheyenne, the youth pastor, greets a new student and they quickly bond over their love of books. It’s no wonder the youth program is called “Thrive.” As the room fills up with a mixture of high school and middle school students, laughter and conversation create an atmosphere that reminds them that they are in a safe space where they can unapologetically be themselves. 

This year, many of the teens at Providence in Summerville, South Carolina, have given their lives to Christ, some even deciding to pursue a career path in ministry. We sat down to discuss challenges they face with friendship, ministry and more. Our conversation taught me what it means to thrive as a teen Christian in today’s culture. Here are some of the things that stood out to me. 

They show composure when answering hard questions

“When I talk to friends and they ask a question but I don’t know an answer I say I’m going to have to research and get back to them. But I let them know where the foundation of my faith is and that not knowing the answer to that question will not change it.” 

“When people ask questions about going to church I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older and rooted in my faith people around me are less confrontational and more curious. Our friend group has a lot of Christians and non-Christians. Friends text me with questions, and I answer everything I can. If I’m not sure, I’ll say ‘this is what I know right now.’” 

They invite their friends to church

“Before this school year I wasn’t involved in relationship with Christ, but I got closer to God through my friend. Knowing someone that was rooted in their faith made me wonder what it was to have that relationship. The turning point was being invited to a Bible study at Ye Olde Fashion. I started coming here with my friends after they invited me.” 

No one is forcing them to come to church

“At my church back in Summerville, the kids are there because that’s where they grew up, but people want to be here and are actively seeking relationship.” 

“I already go to a church and I’m into my relationship with God but we don’t really have a youth program and only have like three teenagers there. But, like, one out of the four Sundays we actually go. So it’s usually a few of us in the sanctuary. I wanted for a while to have Christian friends. I wanted to come to youth and I invited my other friend to come too.” 

“My parents aren’t Christians.” 

Friends joke around about it

“My friends joke about me being Christian sometimes, but one friend has been asking me more questions about it and it’s helped her to know that she can ask me questions and approach me.” 

“Friends will mess around and joke about us being Christian, and call me the good little Christian girl.” 

“I had a friend who went to college who has asked me a lot about my faith. But when he went to his first college party he didn’t tell me about it. I asked why he didn’t tell me and he joked that because I was Christian I’d be mad.” 

Their friends notice the difference 

“When I’m hanging around a circle of Christians the atmosphere is completely different. Whatever you’re doing it’s so easy to go with what the atmosphere gives you, like what music is playing and how people are talking or what they are complaining about, it completely shifts when you’re not around Christian friends. But because of who we attract and how we treat people they see the difference. It’s an underlying message in your relationship.”

“In band this year we just finished our season and before our last time performing she said that Jesus shines in me. It was so cool. I teared up.”

“Even people who don’t believe in God still see it and acknowledge it and say they notice the difference.” 

“Even our friends who don’t believe who aren’t Christians say our faith is strong and visible.” 

They feel the weight of being set apart

“Everybody knows me as a positive person and tells me I should be a therapist. It’s really hard though to break down in front of people. I’ve been having anxiety attacks at school and then after I feel bad about breaking down in front of them because I’m supposed to be their positive encouraging friend.” 

“My personality around other people is to act happy even when I’m not. One day I had stuff going on and I was trying to not cry about it but I was really overwhelmed and took 20 minutes to the side to get myself together because there was a lot going on that week. I had some people say it was weird seeing me cry because I’m always so happy all the time. Apparently that’s how I present myself and I’m always making jokes about stuff.” 

“Sometimes there is an expectation of how to act and treat people and obviously we should have one, but something I’ve struggled with is being able to treat people always in a good way even if I find them obnoxious. If I just don’t feel good, I hate having a bad day and feel bad about having a bad day. When I’m at school I try not to be bothered enough about what’s going on. Then I get insecure about whether friends who aren’t Christian are they going to think I’m not Christian because I’m having an off day. I always want to be that example.” 

Parents would be surprised about how they can help

“At school my mom will text me a Bible verse to help with what I’m facing that day.” 

“Something that is probably different now as opposed to when my parents were growing up is how much time we spend with our parents, because we are always on our phone. I think that something parents could do now is force their kids to spend time with them. I know that when I’m in a mood and don’t want to go downstairs and hang out with my mom, it makes me mad in the moment when she forces me to, but then I’m so grateful for the conversations we have.” 

“I’ve been hanging out with my dad every Sunday and the more I’ve been coming here the more questions he asks me about church. It’s helpful when he’s supportive and patient about what I’m interested in.” 

“There are days when you go through rough patches and feel like nothing is good in life. Reading Bible passages with your parent and hearing what they experienced at our age really helps.” 

They are pumped to continue growing in relationship with Christ

The students of Thrive are in full fundraising mode, preparing for their trip to Follow Conference this year at the end of December, so much so that they are willing to spend New Year’s Eve on a bus trip home. 


Kelly Yonce

Kelly Yonce is the social media and communications pastor at Providence Church in Summerville, South Carolina. She is a wife, mom of four and serves on the worship and outreach teams at Providence. She also has a day job in publishing, which fuels her love of reading and writing.

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