Over the course of the summer, several thousand kids will make their way to locations all around the country and all around the world.
While they may visit a tourist site or two or make their way to an amusement park at some point during their journey, these are simply fun breaks in the middle of something a whole lot bigger.
All of these kids, along with their adult leaders, are giving up a week of their summers to paint houses, remove and replace shingles on roofs, build handicap-accessible ramps, clean up communities and invest in the lives of folks all across the country.
Through serving as a pastor in a variety of capacities over the past 17 years and partnering with an incredible organization called Mission Serve, I have had a front-row seat to observe a great many “kids these days” in action. In fact, I am at this moment participating in a Mission Serve project with 150-plus young people from across the United States.
The picture I have seen this week and through the years has been vastly different from the picture that is often presented. Kids these days are not the self-obsessed, entitled, unruly monsters we hear about. In my experience, they are a courageous group seeking to experience and share hope. Kids these days are a generation working diligently to make the world a better place.
I have a good friend in West Virginia who served on my youth ministry team for several years. She has a huge heart for young people and those who are overlooked and marginalized. She has made a regular practice of looking for instances where young people are doing good in the world and sharing it on social media, often using the hashtag #kidsthesedays.
She has taken it upon herself to be a voice of love and encouragement to these young revolutionaries and to paint a more accurate picture of what is happening in and through the lives of youth all around the country.
As I watched vans full of excited young people head out to worksites all over a community in southern Illinois and as I thought about the many other locations just like this one across the country, I was provided with an incredibly encouraging picture of kids these days. I want to share a couple of thoughts about “kids these days.”
They are concerned for the welfare of others. When I was a teenager, I spent my summers playing basketball and watching MTV. I was a good kid. I didn’t get in trouble and generally did what was required of me. My field of view was limited to my immediate surroundings. I wasn’t concerned with poverty, a lack of clean water or the dilapidation of communities across the country.
The world has become a much smaller place in the last 20 years, however, and kids these days are not only acutely aware of issues in our world, they want to do something about it.
When asked, the No. 1 thing the youth, young adults and young families at my church said they wanted to see us do as a church was get out and serve the community. Living out the second half of the great commandment is a core value for kids these days. They are loving their neighbors as they love themselves.
They are just as willing to receive help as they are to offer it. Recent studies on the spiritual development of youth have demonstrated what we have long known to be true: Young people benefit greatly when mature, caring and compassionate adults come alongside them and invest in their development.
The studies also show that not only are youth open to such relationships, they are actively seeking them out. In a world where we have infinite access to mind-boggling amounts of information, young people are extremely aware of how much they have to learn, and they are open to learning what we’re willing to teach.
As I consider all I’ve seen in kids these days, I find myself being hopeful. I’m unwilling to add to a narrative that demeans and degrades who they are and what they are becoming. It has been said, “Our children are our greatest natural resource.” We need to invest in helping them become who and what God created them to be. We need to remember that the “kids these days” will be building our tomorrows.
Mission Serve has been involved in prepackaged missions for more than 20 years. Mission Serve partners with local city governments to assist in the rehabilitation of substandard housing. We believe in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and sharing his love through missions and home rehab. Mission Serve is a life-changing mission experience, bringing youth and adults together to serve local communities.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to awoods@aimmedia