Those of us who are around young people, whether as parents, youth workers, pastors, observers, know that they are open to change. This does not mean that they do not have fixed positions. They do. However, young people still believe that change is possible and are willing to try new things and do things differently. This is an opportunity; one that calls for responsibility.
Too often, youth are co-opted, often unwittingly, to adults’ agendas. An adult leader might have a pet peeve, a dissatisfaction and play into youth’s openness and desire for change and use them to advance that leader’s selfish agenda. That’s irresponsible and exploitative.
However, there are places where institutionally we seem stuck in a pattern that has deviated from the call from Jesus Christ to love God and neighbor. Youth are ideally placed to help us move back to true love of neighbor. Dr F. Douglas Powe, jr makes this point. He notes that youth have not come up with all the societal barriers and stereotypes that adults have. While influenced by some of these, the reality of youth is different. Society is more fluid and they encounter persons from outside of their particular racial, social, physical and other groupings often face to face and definitely through media. Thus they “are in a position to redefine what it means to be a neighbor by hearing the voices on the other side” (Powe 2008, 105). This means that they can notice and be attentive to those who are different and even discounted and in so doing change our understanding of neighbor.
How are you empowering your youth and students to hear the voices on the other side?
Powe, F. Douglas. “Hearing the Voice of Our Neighbor From the Otherside.” In Loving God, Loving God, Loving Neighbor: Ministry With Searching Youth, 93-107. XLibris, 2008.
Loving God, Loving Neighbor