Yesterday I began a series of posts reflecting on the groundSWELL online conference I attended. This conference was a compilation of teenagers from all across the country sharing with church leaders what needs to happen in order for the church to reach their generation. In addition to yesterday’s topic of being real, another theme that came up again and again and again and again was relationships, especially relationships with godly adults. I don’t know if there was a single teenager (I got to hear from about 10 of them) that didn’t mention this as a crucial thing the church needs to be about. In reality, it makes sense and connects back to the idea of being real. Hear what they had to say on the topic:
- When asked the most impacting thing the church as done for you: “Having people that want to BE in my life not just speak into my life.” They were talking about how important it is just to know that adults (and peers) care about them as a person not just what we think they should know. By BEING there and not necessarily saying anything, the teens said they felt okay with then asking questions when they came up.
- “We need to know the church is always going to be there. Our generation has people disappoint them all the time; the church shouldn’t be another disappointment. Consistency and relationships make an impact in our generation.
- “Relationships with other godly people anchor me. When I’m shaky down the road, I will know there are people who will pour into me and I can turn to them.”
At one point in the conference, they were showing a video of a panel of three high school seniors. As they mentioned again and again the importance of mentors, the interviewer asked, “What does an ideal mentor look like in your life?” Here are some of their responses:
- “Down to earth, real, and completely honest”
- “Older than me. They’ve gone through things that I haven’t gone through. They’re wiser and will help guide me.”
- “They not only want to give me good answers but biblical answers!”
- They find a way to relate even if they haven’t gone through the same things you’re going through.
- Above all, “they just straight up LOVE on me!”
During one of the recaps, Rick Warren shared this helpful reminder:
- Studies have shown again and again (both religious and secular) that the#1 factor in whether a teenager makes it in life or not comes down to this: having at least ONE caring adult in their life. “The relationship, more than the doctrine or teaching, is what keeps kids on the track toward knowing Jesus and sticking with them.”
What can you do to impact the life of a child this week? As you can see from their responses, you don’t have to be “great with kids” to make an impact… just be real them and ask them what’s going on in their worlds. Maybe it’s being intentional about interacting with your own child or grandchild. Maybe it’s a niece or nephew or the kid down the street. Or maybe it’s a youth at church that you can ask how things are going each week as you pass them in the lobby. I challenge you to think of at least one thing you can do this week to connect with a child or teenager. Who knows?!? Asking them about their basketball game may draw them closer to Jesus! Don’t worry about having the right words or knowing what to say… as the one student above said: “JUST STRAIGHT UP LOVE ON THEM!”