We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. —Franklin D. Roosevelt
I am a firm believer that our youth and young adults can make significant, long-lasting and meaningful contributions to church life. I also believe they are able to do that right now.
Do they have all the wisdom and expertise needed? No, but who does? Every day, my prayer is for wisdom to faithfully serve in my role as president. What our youth and young adults need is to know that we who are older believe in them.
For many years I was privileged to take academy students around the globe on mission projects. One was to a summer camp in Puerto Rico. There were numerous different tasks, and we were easily able to keep our group of about 75 busy. On the second day we were there, the camp director asked if there was any way to add another project to the list. Up on their playing field, an old shipping container served as a storage unit. Unfortunately, the ground was eroding away on one side. His question was if we could shore up the container.
As I evaluated the situation, I knew I could not send my construction supervisor to do it. He was keeping all the kids busy. Yet there were two young men, Robby and Julian, who I thought were up to the task.
They were both seniors and both had already been on several other mission trips. Robby had been taking an engineering class, and he was very careful and thorough. Julian was his best friend and was as strong as a horse. I believed they could handle the challenge.
I took them over to where the shipping container was located and showed them what needed to be done. They needed to dig down in the ground to create solid footings, build support pillars out of concrete blocks reinforced with rebar, and be sure all was level across the support columns when they were finished. But before doing any of that, they needed to build temporary supports that could be removed when the permanent pillars were finished. I told them I believed they could do the job and if they had any questions to come find me or our construction superintendent. Then I walked away.
A few hours later they came back to show me what they were planning. They had figured out the elevations and a way to make temporary supports. They said that at some time they would need about 40 people to lift the container up so the temporary supports could be put in place. When they were ready, we came and lifted.
The next day began their real construction project. With meticulous care the footings were dug, the pillars were built, and the time came to lift once more. Only this time we would remove the temporary supports and set the container down on its new, solid foundation.
Building a solid foundation into the lives of our youth and young adults means that we utilize them in meaningful and significant ways. I believe God gifts people of all ages, and those gifts are to be used to bless all. Plus, being young often comes with an “I can” attitude. And if ever there was a place where an “I can” attitude would be needed, it is in our churches.
When I looked at those two young men, I believed they could do what needed to be done. I would challenge all of us to get to know the youth and young adults in your church and find what they can do as well. Oh, and when Robby and Julian were finished it was exactly as requested—solid, secure and level. They built, and I believe something was built into their lives as well.