Gen Z (b. 1996-2012) is being raised and educated in a culture of fear. This is the result of many factors. We live in a post-9/11 world, marked by ongoing wars and terrorism, an economic recession, and 24/7 coverage of global, domestic, and personal tensions, trauma, and anger streaming into our lives via our smartphones. Many adults have succumbed to the perspective that the world is an uncertain, dangerous, and scary place. As a result, we work diligently to protect the young people in our lives. We monitor them via video feed throughout their infancy and track them by GPS when they get older. We feed them organic food, buckle them into every seat they sit on, give them helmets and knee pads, and keep them in safe, enclosed spaces. We discourage them from doing anything dangerous or risky, citing the great harm that could befall them. They listen as we talk to one another in frightened or angry tones about what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. They see what we post on social media. They get the message repeatedly that the world is a scary and unsafe place.
In a world perceived as dangerous and uncertain, safety has become the priority. This has had some positive results. Jean Twenge reports in her book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, that there are several positive indicators of increased physical safety for kids and teens today. Homicide rates, sexual assault and rape, and alcohol consumption have all been on the decline. However, there are some other troubling statistics emerging. Depression, anxiety, and suicide among young people are on the rise. In fact, some experts believe that Gen Z is on the verge of a mental health crisis.
Twenge explains how we have not only focused on physical safety for young people today, but also on emotional safety. We have taught them to be tolerant and that they should never be made to feel uncomfortable emotionally. As a result, many do not know how to handle criticism, conflict, or even conversation about tough issues in a healthy and constructive manner. Instead, many young people see words and social interactions as potentially dangerous and harmful.
The emphasis on physical and emotional safety is promoting an aversion to any kind of risk or danger. We neglect to teach and model that it is in failing and experiencing pain that we realize how strong and resilient we are. Healthy conflict, disagreement, and dialogue are where we learn new things, gain diverse insights, and deepen our understanding of ourselves, others, and important issues. It is only through getting hurt that we can ever truly learn the beauty and power of forgiveness and healing. So, while safety is important, it can also be dangerous. Too much safety can strip young people (and the rest of us!) of desperately needed confidence, resilience, perspective, and hope.
So, how can we encourage young people in our lives to avoid the inherent risks of too much safety?
The following is a guest post by Dr. David Geisler, President, Norm Geisler International Ministries and an Adjunct Professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
I remember that day! I was sitting on a bench at the student center watching others go to and from class and suddenly I started to cry. It became very clear to me at that moment that if any of these students didn’t accept Jesus Christ sometime in their brief life, their destiny would be finalized! By then it would matter little how well they did on their exams, or what kind of success they saw in their careers. Without Christ, they would all be separated from God for eternity.
Fortunately, witnessing back then seemed easier. There was a certain respect for the Bible, and students were open to hearing about Jesus. I remember reading a gospel booklet to a student in their dorm during that same time period, and the listener prayed to receive Christ that very day! Sadly, that kind of approach doesn’t seem to work anymore.
Why is that? Put succinctly, the gospel remains simple, getting to the gospel is not. Consider for example how many today view morality as a personal preference, like ice cream flavors. Some may prefer chocolate, others may prefer vanilla, but who can really say which one is better! That’s how some view moral choices. Yet reducing morality to a mere personal preferences makes many in our culture tone deaf to hearing the gospel message and blind to seeing it’s relevance to their life in any way!
Today, if we are going to effectively communicate the truth of the Christian message, simply repeating old formulas is not enough. We have to rethink our approach to witnessing, and include something else, called “pre-evangelism.” Pre-evangelism is tilling the soil of their hearts and minds, removing the rocks and obstacles of disbelief, helping them to see how lost they are. After all, it’s hard for them to see their need for savior, when they don’t believe they have any sins to forgive!
One day a student said to me, “Why can’t God just let me into Heaven?” It was clear to me that in his question, his view of himself and of God was skewed. So many young people today will say that they believe in God, but then tend to overestimate their own righteousness, and underestimate God’s holiness. These distortions in their beliefs make cultivating good soil for the gospel to flourish in their lives a much greater challenge (See Matthew 13:19-23).
This means at times, we may have to help others see the world through a biblical lens, before they can see any truth in the Christian message! Unfortunately however statistics show that we are failing this task! Today, 25% of Americans have no religious affiliation, and 45% of these are millennials! Now helping others to see through a biblical lens means practically that we start by helping our non-believing friends recognize the distortions in their beliefs. The truth is that many have deceived themselves and believe they can explain moral goodness in general without reference to a belief in God! Other who say they believe in God may deceive themselves by overvaluing their own moral goodness, as well as undervaluing God’s moral standards or believe somehow that God grades on a curve. Some have even allowed certain distortions in their perception of God’s nature to develop a crippling undervaluation of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. But if these distortions can be identified and removed, many will be more receptive to hearing about the Savior.
Last summer while training in Italy I had a conversation with a young skeptic. His question to me was this: “How can you believe the Bible when it was written by so many different people, who were imperfect?” Now, the truth I wanted him to understand is this: if God can do the big miracle, then He can do the little miracle.
Here was my question: “Would you agree that if there is a God who created the universe, then He’s powerful enough to ensure that what He wants to communicate to us reaches us, even through imperfect people?” His response to me was revealing. He said, “I see how that would make it less problematic.” He came to his own, unforced conclusion, a conclusion that he could not deny.
This illustration demonstrates the value at times of changing our old witnessing paradigm, and “allow others to surface the truth for themselves by asking them probing and thought-provoking questions.” (See our book Conversational Evangelism to learn this art!) Very rarely today can we simply just tell people the truth directly. Most non-Christians are even offended when we try to “share with them” where they are wrong. They see our approach as downright offensive, maybe even evil for pushing our “truth!” So we must remember that even if we know what truth to communicate to people today, based on the questions and concerns they have, we still need to discern what’s really the best way for them to “see this truth for themselves.” This too is an important factor to keep in mind in reaching millennials today. Like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, we too need to better understand the times in which we live, and know what we should do!
To better understand this pre-evangelism paradigm, check out our book, Conversational Evangelism and our web-sites ( www.ngim.org/speaking and www.conversationalevangelism.com and www.conversationalanswers.com ) and our new channel www.vimeo.com/davidgeisler.
Text messages, emails, social media posts, instant messages—so much of our communication occurs via digital formats these days. Even for those of us who used to communicate primarily in face-to-face settings or via phone, basic communication skills can become less habitual and require some extra effort. Young professionals, whose communication skills developed largely in virtual contexts, often require training and coaching in skills at were once intuitive. Here are a few critical communication skills to practice and encourage in those you are mentoring and leading:
1) Smile. Of course, you do not need to smile throughout an entire conversation, but it is important to use facial expressions and body language that indicate engagement and interest. At the beginning or end of a conversation, this may include a strong handshake. Throughout the discussion, appropriately smiling, nodding or leaning in during important points indicates you are listening.
2) Maintain eye contact. Digital communication allows for multi-tasking. An interruption while writing an email or a distraction while texting, seldom affect the quality of the interaction. However, in face-to-face communication, appearing distracted or allowing interruptions (like checking a text message!), indicates there are other more important priorities than what you are hearing. Maintaining eye contact and ignoring distractions around you shows the value you place on the person and conversation before you.
3) Pause. Often, while listening to others, we are already thinking of what we need to do next, or preparing our response to what they are saying. As soon as they stop talking (sometimes before!), we start sharing our perspectives. Make it a practice to allow a pause when others finish talking. You may discover they are only thinking and have something more to add. It also communicates that you are listening and absorbing what they are saying. As a result, they may feel comfortable sharing more in-depth information that you would miss out on otherwise.
4) Ask questions. Miscommunications are a frequent part of interacting with others. Usually, they result from insufficient information. Ask follow-up or clarifying questions to be sure you fully understand other perspectives and expectations. This is especially important in face-to-face communication since we cannot reread a conversation the same way we can a text message or email. Relevant and insightful questions also indicate your investment in the conversation and can help further the discussion!
As teachers, leaders, and parents, one of the best ways to help the young leaders and kids around us grow in their communication skills is to model them in our own lives. Practice these communication strategies and others consistently and make them a part of your expectations of those you lead. See the change that occurs as active and healthy face-to-face communication becomes the norm in your team, family, or work context!
For the next generation!
Steven Covey’s comment toward the end of his book, First Things First, grips me: “I deeply believe that if we attend to all other duties and responsibilities in life and neglect the family it would be analogous to straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.” As I seek to parent my own daughters, mentor young leaders, and research and teach on generational trends, I am haunted by a sense that we spend a lot of time in our culture straightening deck chairs. I believe three factors contribute to our tendency to ignore or delegate what is most important in our lives. I sense the pull of these powerful forces in my own life, and see them in the lives of my family, friends, and people I interact with across the country as I travel and speak. So, what are they and how do we combat them to focus on what is most important?
The beauty of today’s technologically connected society is that I can easily keep up with my friends and family scattered across the country and globe. An unintended consequence of this connectivity, however, is that I am constantly witnessing what everyone else is doing. I see my friends whose kids are playing tennis, basketball, and soccer. I see other friends who have their kids in choir, gymnastics and dance. Other friends are at Disney World, while some are camping in tents at a State Park. Inevitably, I begin to compare my life (and my kids’ lives) with everyone else’s. Slowly, I can get pulled into the busyness of doing things because other people are doing them. I begin rearranging chairs.
Each family is unique. What mine is gifted and called to do might look very different from another family. In resisting the overwhelming pull of comparison, I must know what our mission statement is, what we are supposed to be focused on in this season of life. If my husband and I have not spent time in prayer and conversation about this, we become reactive rather than intentional. This fall, after praying, I rearranged my schedule to ensure quality time with my kids. We changed the time and place of family devotions to make sure they would happen regularly, and we set a time for evaluating the activities in our lives to be sure they were not overwhelming what is most important. In my family, we find it important to reevaluate our rhythms three times a year to be sure we are not falling into the trap of comparison and compromising what is most important.
Opportunities in our society today are abundant. If you want to learn to play piano, you can search for piano lessons online and easily find hundreds of options, including teachers coming to your home, piano studios, online courses, or YouTube videos. When I open my social media feed, local events are popping up for every age and interest. The temptation with opportunities is that they can be hard to pass up. Because something fun is happening or there is an opportunity to learn something or connect with someone, we can feel pressure to do so. This is not bad, but sometimes we can find ourselves busy with opportunities that are not our priorities. Just this week, I found myself in this position. I had scheduled every free window of time with wonderful activities and interactions. However, as I looked at my week, there was little quality time left over for me to spend with God, my kids, or my spouse. Knowing we all needed some time together, I said “no” to some great opportunities and said “yes” to time together for snuggles, stories, chores, games, and great conversation. I find these are often the moments when mentoring and discipleship happens, trust is built, and memories are made.
Author and speaker, Tim Elmore, delineates several parenting types in his book, Generation iY. One of them is the Dry Cleaner parent. He explains that this style of parenting entails dropping our kids off for other people to teach or raise, like we drop off our clothes to be cleaned. I think all of us can recognize that our kids can learn some things better from other people. What too often happens, however, is that we begin to delegate most of our parenting. We find ourselves in the role of chauffeuring our kids from activity to activity, sitting on the sidelines and watching them, but not actually teaching them ourselves. Some of this comes from insecurity. We trust a tutor, a coach, or a mentor to teach them better than we can. Ironically, the time we spend with our kids as we work on a project, wash dishes, bake a cake, clean the yard, or eat dinner will probably have a much more significant impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing and life skills than any number of programs or activities ever will. At some point, I must set aside my insecurities and embrace my role as a parent, knowing I won’t always do it perfectly, but I am the only one who can fill that role for my family and I am going to do it to the best of my ability.
A recent study revealed that 18 to 22-year-olds are the loneliest age group today. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this troubling statistic. One, of course, is the prevalent use of technology in our society today. While devices help us connect to people in new and beneficial ways, there are some drawbacks. Empathy, for example, has decreased as technology has increased. One study reported that college students are 40 percent less empathetic than they were 20 or 30 years ago, prior to the widespread use of the internet. Screens dull our ability to feel the pain and joy of others and to connect with them emotionally. This presents a threat to deep, committed relationships that are impossible to maintain without continuing empathetic interaction.
While Millennials and Generation Z are especially adept at communicating online, valuable intimacy often gets lost in virtual communications. Quantified Communications reports that an average adult today makes eye contact between 30 and 60 percent of the time in conversation, but emotional connection is built when eye contact is made during 60 to 70 percent of the conversation. When there is less eye contact, fewer connections are made. Virtual connections, while valuable, cannot replace the emotional connection and sense of well being that occurs with eye contact, touch, and physical presence.
Leaders and managers today often report that young staff lack the relational skills and emotional intelligence to connect with others effectively. In many ways, it is the older generations who must take responsibility for this. When we hand a 5-year-old a device instead of answering their tenth question about giraffes or princesses, we rob them of an opportunity to develop face-to-face communication skills and connect with us in a way that is meaningful to them. When we miss the body language or facial expressions of a 10 or 12-year-old in our life because we are busy checking our social media feed, we lose the opportunity to model good emotional intelligence. When we avoid a conversation with an 18 or 20-year-old in our life because we assume their earbuds mean they don’t want to talk to us, or we fear rejection, we miss an opportunity to demonstrate sincere interest or unconditional love.
Young people today need opportunities to practice healthy relational skills, and they desperately need to see them modeled. Many leaders, mentors, teachers and parents I talk to, however, do not know even where to start in actively engaging the young people in their lives. What I have found, in interacting regularly with 5 to 25-year-olds, is that there is great power in a good question and active listening. I have yet to encounter a young person who did not respond positively to someone sincerely asking about their perspectives and concerns. True, there might be an eye roll or two at first, but when they see you persist in your interest in them, despite their eye roll, trust and respect begin to develop.
So, what does a good question entail? First of all, it must be open-ended. If it allows the young person to respond with a simple “yes,” “no,” “good” or “bad,” a grunt or sigh, it is not a good question. Instead, it should require some thoughtfulness. Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day at school?” try something like “What was the best part of your day at school?” The response to a good question should give you some insight into the young person’s life and provide an opportunity for a follow up question. For example, if they respond that the best part of their day was chatting with a friend, you could follow up with a question like, “Tell me about your friend? How did you meet?” A good question can thus communicate that you care about what they care about. Check out some other great sample questions here.
Good questions are one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate interest, gain empathy, and develop deep connections. As a result, they are a critical tool for all of us as we interact in a society that is increasingly distracted and busy. Make it a goal to practice asking good questions and taking the time to listen actively to the responses.
The oldest members of Generation Z (b. 1996-2012) are now in college and beginning to enter the workforce. While they share some of the values and views of Millennials, they are also distinct in many ways. Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world and experienced an economic recession. They watched parents, aunts, and uncles lose jobs. They watched older siblings and cousins drowning in college debt as they struggled to start their careers. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, and deep social divides have played out on the devices they carry in their pockets, or place under their pillows, making the troubles of the world very real and ever present in their lives. They have grown up in a culture of fear. Nonetheless, this generational cohort has some incredible strengths that are already beginning to reveal themselves.
Self-Learners. Gen Z has unprecedented access to information. Unlike any generation before them, they can engage the broader world at an early age. My daughters frequently ask questions like, “What sound does a giraffe make?” knowing that within a few seconds we can find a video of a giraffe making sounds. I have a friend whose teenage daughter taught herself to play violin by watching Youtube videos. Gen Z possesses a healthy sense of curiosity and they have the tools to pursue their interests and find information quickly. One result of this is the elimination of natural opportunities for mentoring. Instead of asking a teacher, parent, or coach for information, providing an opportunity for an intergenerational conversation, they often go to their devices to find answers. As a result, we must find ways to be more intentional as we seek to engage them in relationships.
Entrepreneurial. Because of the vast technological tools at their fingertips, Gen Z feels empowered to act independently. They do not have to wait for someone to give them an opportunity to make money, learn, create, or connect. They can record videos, create music, start businesses, and connect with people around the world with the resources on their devices. As a result, they are incredibly entrepreneurial. In fact, 72% of high school students want to start their own business someday. Colleges and businesses seeking to recruit Gen Z need to be aware of this and prepare to foster this entrepreneurial approach to learning and work. Already 34% of U.S. workers are freelancers and the gig economy shows signs of continued growth. Gen Z fits firmly into this trend. We may need to rethink how we are educating a new generation of workers who see themselves as entrepreneurs.
Pragmatic. Gen Z is proving to be practical and self-focused in their views of the future. One benefit of this is that they see the need for long-term goals and are often willing to sacrifice in the moment for future security. In fact, recent studies show that Gen Z has more self-control than kids did decades ago. While financial security is the goal of many young people today, for those committed to something greater than themselves, their pragmatic perspective on the world can help them make sound decisions and persevere beyond the challenges of the moment.
While technology addiction, rising rates of depression and mental illness, and fear can threaten the potential of Gen Z, there is great reason to hope. This new cohort brings perspectives and skills well-suited for the world in which they will live and lead. They desperately need mentors, teachers, and leaders who can see their strengths, and who are committed to helping them develop those skills. They need encouragement and wisdom as they learn to thrive!
The following is a guest post by Josiah Kennealy. Visit the Facebook page to learn more about his book Debtless and find more great tips.
Over the past five years, I have met with many college students, young couples and young adults who are drowning in debt and struggling financially because of student loans. I recently completed my master’s degree — graduating debt-free — and focused my capstone project on this topic. My colleagues and I surveyed 850 college students from more than 200 different colleges and universities in over 40 states. We published the findings in the book Debtless.
Not surprisingly, the results showed that college debt is a huge problem. We found that over 39 percent of current college students have no idea how much they owe in student loans. Based on our research, current students have taken on an average of $26,659 in debt — and haven’t graduated yet! Nearly 40 percent of students surveyed said no one informed them about alternatives to student loans.
I want to share with you three tips that will help you pay for college, take on less debt, and pursue your dreams with passion!
College is expensive. Every situation is different because each student has a different desire of what his or her future dreams hold. In addition, every family has a different financial situation based on jobs, income level, and life events.
Research and due diligence is your job. I recommend that students in high school visit their school’s office to set up a meeting with their school counselor. One you’ve done that, you want to talk to the admissions offices of every school you’re applying for. This can help you figure out things like FAFSA, which is a form family’s fill out to apply for financial aid in the form of grants and government helps.
Similar to researching the costs of different college and university options and learning what forms of financial aid are available is applying for outside scholarships. What scholarships do you qualify for? There are a few free websites I recommend: fastweb is one of the best. (You shouldn’t have to pay for any of them). I recently talked with a high school principle who has a community fund with $100,000 awarded in scholarships annually, but some years not all of it is given out because students don’t apply for it!
Lastly, could you work while you’re in school? I worked at least 25 hours per week throughout college during the school year and more over summer break. This allowed me to pay as I went for school.
Looking back, one of the scholarships I’m most thankful I applied for was actually in my last semester of undergrad. I applied for a fully funded summer study abroad trip to Israel/The Holy Land. To take this trip out of pocket would have been in the neighborhood of $10,000 and also gave me graduate studies credits. I was awarded the trip and it was life changing for me to walk where Jesus walked and has been invaluable to me as a pastor in ministry. It never hurts to apply!
What are some ways you could increase the amount of money you have?
This is coming up with your own game plan and road map to success. Again, every student’s experience is going to be different and every family of origin is different to begin with. If you find yourself particularly overwhelmed or stressed out, just know you can do it!
For some people, it makes sense to earn college credit while they are in high school still through AP courses, PSEO, IB and other college in the school programs.
Another opportunity to think about is spending your first year or two at a community college and later transferring to a four—year public or private university. This is a way you can cut the cost overall, and generally community college students can live at home in addition to work. This can be a tri-fecta! Lower cost to classes, live at home rent free, and work to pay bills and save towards the future.
I always remind families that if you serve in the military for four years, the GI Bill covers the cost of courses and living expenses for your undergraduate degree.
à My favorite tip to offer about paying for college is to buy your textbooks from Amazon instead of the bookstore on campus! My first year, I spent around $600 both semesters to buy brand new books on campus. My last few years, I discovered I could buy the same books used on Amazon for a fraction of the cost. This saved me at least $400 per semester.
What are some ways you could cut the cost?
If you are a first generation college student, (and 25% of students are in 2018) one of the things I would say to you is you can do it and you’re not alone. Mentors, youth pastors, parents, teachers, and counselors are people you can let in on the process. Work together! Maybe this process begins for you by calling a cousin or friend who’s a current college student and asking them about their experience.
Chris Brown (financial expert and nationally syndicated radio show host) recently said that 80% of parents expect their child to graduate with student loans. I’m here to tell you that graduating debt free is completely possible and now that you’re on this journey, graduating with less debt is extremely likely!
My greatest takeaway from grad school was learning how to build a great team. This applies to leading a ministry of volunteers, or leading a large company filled with workers. It also applies to you as you go into the next season of life. Build a dream-team that has mentors, teachers, advisors, coaches and family members who can help you get to where you want to go.
I wrote the book Debtless for you and our team created a 12-week YouTube video series with more tips on how to pay for college as well! You can add me to your team of people cheering you on, believing that you can do it and passing along helpful information in the process. My heartbeat and passion is to add value to the lives of young people in America and equipping them with the resources necessary to succeed!
In my situation, I wanted to graduate with no debt. I knew it would be a challenge. One of the things my parents offered to team up with me was to live at home for free. I was able to commute back and forth to the university I went to since my parents lived less than 15 miles away. As an extrovert, this was a major sacrifice, but as I brainstormed creative ways to cut costs, this made a lot of sense and saved a ton of money for me.
When you are willing to sacrifice to minimize the total cost and expense, work to raise your income, and involve other people in the process you are on the path to success!
The following is a guest post by Bill Mann, who writes and speaks on inter-generational mentoring.
When people approach me about mentoring, I usually tell them that one of the key ingredients to being a successful mentor is to put your pride in your back pocket and take a large dose of humility. Just like a vitamin, humility goes a long way to forge a relationship with the next generation.
Every relationship has at least four levels of communication. These levels are separate and usually are done sequentially. The levels are:
Why is this important? Well, one of the highest values of the next generation is that they crave authenticity. They want to interact with people who are real with them and willing to share their lives – both the good and the bad. That, of course, requires mentors to develop an ability to be transparent.
Regi Campbell writes a weekly blog for Radical Mentoring. In a recent blog, he observed that the intensity of young people increases when your stories are about failure you have experienced. They don’t take well to what he calls “victory laps” which often looks like self-promotion than being authentic. I agree.
Regi ascribes the power of “failure stories” to the following (I have added one at the end):
The challenge is straightforward. Mentors need to be willing to express humility and vulnerability to their mentees. They want to know that you messed up, and that you learned from your mistakes. They will make their own mistakes, but possibly not the same ones you did. In addition, you will develop an ability to communicate at a deeper level.
As a sophomore in college, I served as a student leader. Our team was responsible for providing peer mentoring, planning student programs, and helping with various campus activities. We were volunteers, with leadership responsibilities piled on top of classes, homework, and part-time jobs. It was important for us to stay focused on the goal. One of our team leaders often encouraged us by saying, “It’s all about the one!” It didn’t matter if attendance at an event was low, if one lonely student came and found community and new friends, it was worth it. If we had a test looming the next day, but a student struggling with depression showed up at our door, giving up some sleep and taking time to encourage her was meaningful. That slogan helped keep us focused on how critical investing in just one person can be!
Our culture is obsessed with numbers as indicators of success. We measure success as the amount in the budget; the number of customers, guests, sales or conversions; or the size of our facilities. While there are great reasons for this, it can also be a distraction. I am often asked how to create a successful leadership development or ministry program for youth and young adults. Mass methods are only marginally effective. The best way to engage with and develop a young person is one-on-one, or in small teams and communities. Millennials and Generation Z have access to information unlike any other generation in the history of the world. They don’t need another great program; they need to process. Indeed, the number one predictor of a young person retaining their faith is a meaningful relationship with an older believer. Trusted mentors and friends and safe spaces in the frenzied worlds of youth today can provide opportunities for the development of strong values and convictions.
I call this period that we are in the “season of a remnant.” Regardless of your setting, it is unlikely that we will accomplish significant change or impact in young lives and perspectives through large group trainings, conferences, or classes. Relationships, community and meaningful conversation are where the most formative experiences occur. Wondering why a young people has a specific political view? Engage them in a conversation (not a lecture!) about it. Wanting to instill an essential character trait or leadership quality in a young mentee? Model it for them, inviting them to share in a meaningful leadership experience. Hoping to share faith or truth with a generation that desperately needs it? Begin with “the one” or a few…a remnant.
Will and Ariel Durant, Pulitzer-prize winning historians, in discussing the inevitable decline of civilizations, write the following: “Nations die. Old regions grow arid, or suffer other change. Resilient man picks up his tools and his arts, and moves on, taking his memories with him.” I often reflect on this statement and think about my students and my children, their children and grandchildren. As the civilization we belong to undergoes change, what tools and memories do we want young people to possess as they move on to a new or changed civilization? What tools do we want to ensure they carry with them into an uncertain future? There will always be a resilient remnant and equipping them means we sometimes have to remain focused on “the one!”
I have taught leadership courses for many years. It always amazes me to read student essays on who has greatly influenced them. Most of the time, they write about family or friends. These influential people are seldom rich, famous, or powerful. They sometimes live far away or are seen infrequently. To read students’ writing about grandparents, aunts, uncles or friends who have greatly impacted them, I am reminded of the importance of our relationships with family and friends. The holidays is a time of the year when we often see people who live far away or are busy other times of the year. As a result, interactions during Christmas gatherings can be awkward, forced or uncomfortable at times. If there is dysfunction or hurt in the family, it makes it even more difficult to have meaningful conversations. Nonetheless, these events provide invaluable opportunities to mentor and encourage. Our attitudes, behaviors, and responses influence and communicate regardless of our intent, especially to kids, youth, and young adults in our family circles. So, as we begin this season of celebration, here are a few tips to remember as we seek meaningful interactions this Christmas.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!