Teenagers. You might have them, you might have even been one yourself.
I have 3 boys aged 14, 13 and 9. They all have an amazing capacity to do so much when they are given the opportunity to learn, train and practice. For example, it staggers me how much they all know about Minecraft. (It’s a popular video game for those who aren’t sure.) My youngest tried to teach me once. Let’s just say, it didn’t end so well. They have a thirst to discover and work out so much more. To me the game seems pixelated and clunky, but to them, it’s a wonderland where they can spend many hours building and discovering and working together on projects. Their perspective is just different.
It amazes me how quickly young people can pick things up when it sparks their interests.
Yet as a society, we underestimate young people often.
Young people have so much to offer in the now. They see things with a new, fresh enthusiastic perspective which can help to shake things up and look towards the future. They can use their unique thoughts and ideas and view of problems to contribute new creative ways of making things better for everyone. But it takes a strategic and mindful project leader to see what’s right in front of them. Helping to open the eyes of the youth to the many volunteer opportunities where they can have an impact can be life changing to them and the project.
When you win the youth, you win the future.
Young volunteers aren’t just kids trying to help (bless) - they are a powerhouse of unharnessed solutions that when directed and focused can make a difference in the now. They see things differently. They begin to help shape the future. That’s exactly what we need.
We recently invited a couple of amazing 16 year olds, DJ and Louis, who live in a village to visit one of our city partner projects, Barking Churches Unite.
“We were invited by Rory to go and visit a homeless project that a friend of his runs in Barking. When we arrived the first thing that struck us was how busy and organised everyone was. Just outside the project two women were handing out hot meals in boxes to people in a queue. We were surprised at how many people were drawn to the project and how efficient the service was.
When we went inside we were shown rooms with food and boxes in them. The biggest room had organised crates all around and people were coming in and being given food and toiletries. The volunteers were so nice and smiley and they made the people feel cared about and safe. It was special to see these needy people getting the provisions that they needed from people who really cared.
But the most special part was that after all the people had left and the ‘soup kitchen’ and food handouts had finished, the volunteers gathered together in a circle to pray. They committed themselves to God and prayed for each other’s needs. We could see that these people wanted to do God’s will and bless as many people as possible. It was quite amazing and inspiring.”
The flipside of this visit was how the young people were observed by the team. The teenagers gave them such encouragement and one person even said to them - “I need some of what you’ve got!” This is just the beginning of their journey and seeing what is happening in the world and where they can start to dream up new ideas and solutions.
If you haven’t involved young people in your projects yet, it would be well worth your time including them and running with some of their ideas. It will have a long lasting impact on them not only for the future, but for the now. They can also become a huge asset if they are given the opportunity to contribute, learn and collaborate with you. You might also instil a lifelong determination in them that they can and will make a difference for the better in our world.