Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12, NRSV)Today I leave for Loch Leven, our regional church camp and conference center, to spend the week as one of the counselors for young people who are entering 9th and 10th grades this fall. I’m looking forward to the experience. It’s an age when they are no longer children but not quite adults, an age when most are anxious to assert their individual identities and their independence.
The talents, ideas, and opinions of teenagers and twenty-somethings are too often discounted by older adults. What a mistake! They ask questions older people never think to ask. They recognize when we don’t “practice what we preach.” They have a personal interest in the long-range effects of policies and decisions being made now.
Like those of us who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, the youth of this twenty-first century are living in a nation that is fighting a war on foreign soil and dealing with political scandal, and they are facing peer pressure to experiment with drugs and sex. Unlike my generation, they are also tempted by a glut of electronic gadgets and attend schools that have been cutting “non-essential” programs for decades and are now faced with even more cuts to their budgets. Many are being threatened or tempted to ally with violent street gangs. I don’t know what that’s like.
QUESTION: How can the Church get its message out in a way that is more attractive than video games and drugs? How can the church be home and family to kids who feel like they have neither?