“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
– Frederick Douglas
While contemplating the activities for a relaxing weekend, the last thing that might come to mind is spending two days with 3,000 high school-age teenagers for several hours in one large room. “Deafening” takes on a whole new meaning.
Our church, North Point, organizes several age-appropriate events during the year – some, off-site retreats and others, local but spread out in hundreds of individual homes with a nightly gathering on the campus. Have you ever seen 300 boxes of pizza? What a sight!
The toxins and the distractions our kids are relentlessly confronted with in this info-overload, social media-besieged world are frightening. Smartphones are incredible pieces of technology, but they also have the dark potential to create a visual pipeline of bad stuff into their developing brains. Media constantly formulates images of success, contentment and popularity that are difficult, if not impossible to emulate (as if one would even want to). Their self-esteem is constantly attacked.
It’s up to us adult ministry leaders, to serve our youth as mentors, listeners, and role models for appropriate behavior to ensure that they don’t fall prey to the pressures they are bombarded by daily. Sure, we may carry our own personal baggage, but past mistakes and regrets are easily parlayed into teachable moments: been there, done that and it did not end well for me. Ironically, they will listen to the same instruction from group leaders that they hear from their parents, but wistfully ignored since they are…parents.
Looking around a raucous auditorium on a Saturday night through the bright lights and bass-heavy music, we were deeply moved to see hundreds of adults tending to these teenagers who were engaged and listening. They are our future.
A wonderful Proverb (22) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Some of us firmly believe that verse just may be THE most important thing to which we can devote our time. Sporting events and golfing lessons are invigorating, but in the end, those experiences pale in comparison to the young person who will one day stand at the critical intersection of virtue and peril. At that moment, he or she will briefly pause to reflect on a message once discussed in a dimly lit basement of a church late one night amidst his peers and group leaders, collect their thoughts, and boldly take the right path.
Helping to build strong children is a true blessing. And that’s our perspective.