Reaching this next generation can feel like an incredibly daunting task. They are hard to read at times, can be easily offended, and are skeptical of people in positions of power. But they are also compassionate, justice-oriented, and want to make a difference in the world. How we interact with them and what we share with them can help shape the course of their lives.
What we have to offer them is wisdom. They live in a world full of knowledge but no direction on how to use it. Our stories and experiences can help them make better decisions moving into the future.
There are several reasons why this could be intimidating to us; here are 3:
Do I have any wisdom to offer?
We could believe that we don’t have anything wise to offer them, but wisdom is not just what to do but what not to do. You may not have made as many good decisions as you would have liked to, but you may know what decisions not to make and why; this is valuable for students.
When we tell the stories we learned the wisdom from; students will place themselves in it where ever they see themselves best fitting. Our job is to be bold in telling the story and sharing what we learned as a consequence.
I made terrible decisions, will they?
You could feel like sharing your bad decisions gives the following generation license to make bad decisions, too. “well, you did it, so why can’t I?”
We know students make conservative decisions when they have more information, not experimental ones. Them better knowing the possibilities tends to push them toward being safer. What is the point of learning a lesson if we are unwilling to share it with those who need it most?
Being vulnerable with students doesn’t lose your credibility; you gain it.
How do I stop them from making bad decisions?
In short, you cant. But we can help them own their faith; we must let them make decisions with all the information they can get. Part of that information comes from sharing the wisdom we have from decisions we’ve made throughout our lives.
Wisdom opens the door to offer the Gospel. If they know they can get perspective and experience from you that will help them make better decisions, they will want to understand how you see the world and why. This will be your opportunity to share the Gospel with vastness and clarity.
Jordan Francis is a team member at Reframe Youth in Phoenix, Arizona.