Choosing between right and wrong, good and bad, cool and uncool is an everyday battle for teens.
Between pressure to have sex, take drugs, drink alcohol or do many other things, it can seem like the odds are stacked against them.
"There's always temptation," said Ian Owen, 16.
But Ian, a Lakeside High School sophomore, said faith and fellowship go a long way in making the choices easier.
"I feel good about myself knowing that I can resist that," he said, giving full credit to the time he spends at First Baptist Church of Augusta, the lessons he is taught and the youth group that helps reinforce them.
"It teaches you about how to act in the world, and it teaches you how to treat people," Ian said.
Many teens find strength in youth groups, said Jeremy Hinote, youth minister at Central Church of Christ in Augusta.
"(Youth groups) are almost like something they can feed off of. They get pumped up spiritually to go back in the world and handle the temptations and struggles they might face," Mr. Hinote said.
For Sarah Koger, 16, that support can be the difference between getting caught up in bad situations or avoiding them.
"The two times a week I come to church really help me throughout the rest of the week," the Augusta Preparatory Day School sophomore said. "I try to find my relief - instead of in drugs and alcohol - in church."
Youth groups also provide a space for sharing faith and experiences, Mr. Hinote said. What results is a close-knit group of people who look to one another for encouragement.
"They know they have a commitment to God and need to be there, but they get to be around each other," he said, noting that discussions often arise about how to handle peer pressure and how to overcome teen problems. "They want to be around that supporting cast."
Kristen Young, 16, a junior at Midland Valley High School and a member of the Central Church of Christ, said the chance to be around people who share her ideals and commitment provides a strong reason to attend youth group.
"At youth group, I always have someone there to support me," she said.
Although walking the straight and narrow is easy enough when youth-group members are together, it's not always well received outside of the comfort of the groups and churches.
"More than the majority find it difficult to do that," Mr. Hinote said. "Even when they try to do what is right spiritually, it gets difficult.
Evans Middle School eighth-grader Prisila Roberts, 14, said she has had her share of temptations, but her faith and her time with her youth group allow her to refuse them.
"Somebody will say, 'I don't like church ...' (or) 'Let's smoke a cigarette,"' she said.
It comes with the territory, Ian said.
"We're not completely different from other teenagers; we just come to church," he said.
"A lot of people might say I'm not cool because I don't do whatever. I don't care if I'm cool (to them) as long as I'm cool with God."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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