by Shane Rhodehamel
So who is ultimately responsible for our young people, their choices, the outcomes of their lives? How can we play a vital part in making a difference in the next generation?
It all starts with parenting! As parents, we can’t expect others to raise our kids for us, although we better have a plan to have lots of help. The responsibility of being a parent is no joke. You must feed and clothe them, change their diapers, clean up their messes, and pray they don’t pick up all your bad habits and repeat them. Many times, we live so exhausted with life and work that we don’t have the time or energy to focus on our parenting. Our kids need our unconditional love, they need our encouragement, they need our discipline and accountability. They need us to lead them by example and not just do as I say and not as I do. You can’t expect honesty from your kids if you lie to them. You can’t expect commitment from them if you are not committed to them. You can’t expect them to sacrifice for the family if you don’t. I have three kids, my wife and I have been very purposeful in our parenting, but we still have so much to learn. To see a revolution in the next generation, we need to see a revolution in parenting.
No offense to any other organization, but I am a pastor and I think the church has a vital role to play in reaching the next generation. I was a youth pastor for 7 years and my primary job was to assist parents in mentoring, encouraging, and helping their students grow spiritually. The church as a whole has so catered to adults that we have lost an entire generation. The Barna Research group found that 6 in 10 young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended length of time starting at age 15. Across our nation and across our community, churches are realizing that if we don’t reach them in their youth, it only gets more challenging to help them as adults after they have many regrets. The church as a whole has to see this need as real and important. The church has to learn and re-tool to be effective in reaching the next generation. The church needs to put our money where our mouth is if we are going to see genuine change in reaching the next generation.
Parents and churches are vital, but the wild card of difference makers are the rest of us. I call this the net factor. Many times students and young people in general get calloused from hearing from their parents or their church. They expect their parents to care, they expect their church to care, but they don’t expect you to care! You can be the difference maker! “But I am just a teacher.” “I am just a bank teller.” “I am just a grandma.” “I am just a coach.” “I am just a ____________!” Whatever you are, whoever you are, you have the potential to make a difference with a smile, a kind word, a note of encouragement. Take an interest in a young person that has been misunderstood. Buy a neighbor kids an ice cream sandwich. Get involved in your child’s school. Assist the coach or become a coach. Purpose to make your house a place where your kids’ friends are welcome. Make your business a place where young people feel welcome and encouraged. If we work together, young people will grow up with great influences, great values, great aspirations and great dreams to becoming like the wonderful people that have invested in them!