WCR PHOTOS | GLEN ARGAN
Brad Henning's talk at the archdiocesan youth rally Oct. 19 in Red Deer drew loads of laughter from the 400 junior and senior high school students in attendance.
WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Brad Henning has been talking to teens about relationships for 35 years.
For 35 years, Brad Henning has been giving the same talk to teens about boy-girl relationships, and for 35 years they have been responding with laughter and enthusiasm.
In his college years, Henning was part of a singing group that brazenly went into public schools in Washington State, gave concerts and then asked the kids to give their lives to Christ.
Thousands came forward, but there was no follow-up. So Henning and others launched what they called the Saturday Night Meeting in a private home. First, about 20 teens came. But the numbers grew and soon they had to move into a church.
Eventually, they ended up with crowds of 1,200 to 1,400 youth coming on Saturdays for meetings that began at 7 p.m. and lasted as late as 2 or 3 a.m.
"We'd be praying for kids; there would be unbelievable things happening," Henning told 400 teens from across Alberta at the annual archdiocesan youth rally Oct. 19 at Red Deer's St. Thomas Aquinas School.
Still, something wasn't right. Kids who loved Jesus and who were active in their churches were falling away from the faith, he said. "The number one killer was their relationships with each other. Nobody was talking about the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff."
So, Henning gave a talk about everything he knew about the topic. It lasted 10 or 15 minutes. But it grew and got a stronger and stronger response from both teens and adults. In Red Deer, he gave three 45-minute talks that had his audience laughing uproariously throughout.
"It took me a long time to figure it out," he said in an interview. Talking about abstinence wasn't working because kids who heard those talks still ended up pregnant or with STDs.
Until girls understand the ways guys think and until guys realize they are hurting girls deeply by the things they say and do, girls are still going to think guys are jerks and guys will remain mystified by girls' behaviour, he said.
"I've seen guys say the cruelest stuff. Girls, seriously, we don't mean it; we're just having fun. Guys don't understand how differently you receive everything."
If numbers mean anything, Henning is having success. He's spoken to more than 1.5 million teens and has received 45,000 emails from teens who want advice on their relationships.
Henning's message is simple. Teens need to understand that boys and girls are different, not only physically, but also in how they communicate. They also need to understand the nature of love. Only then will they buy into the message that sex should wait until marriage.
Guys tend to get over anger more quickly than girls, he said. "She won't get over the anger till he knows how much he screwed up. Girls call it communication; guys call it nagging."
Most guys like their bodies; most girls don't, he continued. So if a guy makes a negative comment about a girl's appearance, it will devastate her even though the same comment made to one of his buddies would have little effect.
As well, guys fear rejection more than anything. Henning referred to a New Zealand study that found that the level of heart stress a guy experiences asking a girl out on a first date is similar to what he would experience parachuting from an airplane.
When a couple are on a date, and the girl says, "I love you," she means this will last forever and they should plan to get married. But when the guy says "I love you" he just thought of the idea.
So, when a week later, the same guy tells another girl he loves her, and, if the first girls learns about it, she is enraged. "She tells him, 'You said you love me and it's going to last forever and we're talking marriage.'" But the guy responds, "No I didn't. I said 'I love you.' That was last week, and now I love her."
Henning had advice for girls.
First, "From now on girls, if you ever go to a party where there's drugs or alcohol, the whole point is to get you out of your clothes and into bed." Even if you only drink water, you had better not put that bottle down because you don't know what someone will put into your drink.
Second, "If you ever in the future want to have a relationship with a guy who's worth anything at all, get off your cellphones, get off your computers and make that guy talk to you face-to-face. If he won't do it, you've got the wrong guy."
What do the kids think of Henning's message? The WCR spoke with four girls from Bonnyville, three of whom were at their fourth archdiocesan youth rally.
Seana Batke said the only reason they made the long trek to Red Deer was to hear Henning. "He brings up subjects people wonder about but never ask. You learn a lot from listening to Brad's talks."
For Marie Lyttle, Henning's talks helped her understand why her previous relationships have all been bad.
Batke termed the youth rally "the highlight of our year. It's better than Christmas morning."