parenting raising teens

Unleashing the Next Generation

10:49 AMHeather

Have you ever stumbled over a new dream? Sorta accidentally discovered something that you realize you have a passion to pursue? Maybe you went into it thinking you might dabble there or just show up, and before you know it, you want to lead the charge.

This one has surprised me even more than I could express. A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about the group of girls that I co-lead for a biweekly Bible study. This time last school year, I went into this whole God's Girls thing because I wanted it to happen and I thought I could probably manage to not mess it up too much. Sorta like when you sign up to be the room mom because you want your kid to have the benefits, so sure, why not?

But this thing, this God's Girls thing, has taken it's own course. It's become way more than I ever intended--purely by the grace of God. Seeing the little community being built of girls from all different faith backgrounds and family backgrounds finding a refuge together... as they enter middle school. Those years full of pitfalls from pimples to crushes to puberty. And they have each other for moral support. While they are cultivating their faith.

When the girls run into my house and give me a quick hug and chatter and talk and open their hearts to honest conversation; whey they dialog and ask questions about big things like who God is and why he gave us free will and what is heaven like... well, my heart melts at the wonder of it all. 

Which is why I initially blogged to throw down the challenge for others to pick up the charge.

And here's what has happened since then.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with three moms from another school in our district who are looking to start their own God's Girls. I tried to answer all their questions and just kept telling them that when we say yes, God does the rest. I can take no credit for the special thing that happens when up to 18 sixth grade girls fill my living room and share their heartaches and their joys and we open the Word of God together. When after one hectic gathering, someone admonishes me as she leaves, "Mama H, we didn't even pray together today!" OOPS! 

So I sat and listened to these moms and the vision became clearer to me. And the small spark within me began to roll into a blazing fire. I pictured groups of kids gathering all over this country. Gathering in living rooms for the common purpose to explore who God is.

What if?

What if groups of girls (and even boys) who attend school together began to meet in the living rooms of parents who are willing to invest ninety minutes every other week into the lives of the next generation?

When I got home from that lunch meeting, I had a phone call with one of my best friends from college. And before I knew it, I was giving her a rousing speech that sounded something like this.

Research shows that kids who grow up being active in Evangelical churches throughout their childhoods are leaving the church in droves during their 20's. These are kids who came regularly and were taught about the Bible throughout their formative years. We're not talking fringe kids. We are talking the regulars who fill the youth section of pews every Sunday. They are leaving the church in big numbers after they head off to college.

The reasons are so varied. And as a mom of one who will be heading off to college in less than two years, I'm eager to do whatever it takes to shore that up.

So what if we rolled back the clocks and took a good hard look at preventative measures even earlier than the high school years? 

Could we stop this trend? Could we do something to ground these kids with roots so deep that it carries them through some tough and challenging real world experiences?

My friend noted that she was having a hard time finding good Bible study curriculum and resources for her boys who are in sixth and ninth grades.

Um, yes. That is exactly what I found when I went to search for a book to go through with the God's Girls this year. There is a huge gap in the market at the Christian book store. There are "devos" and some teen Bible studies. There are some books on topics such as dating, sex and modesty. And listen--those all have merit. Those are important topics. But if I have about one hour of instruction with these girls every other week, I want it to be all about the gospel. If nothing else, I want them to leave each week with a clearer understanding of who Jesus is and what he did for us.

Yet I found very little by way of resources to help late elementary and middle school kids dig into the Bible and learn about who God is and our relationship with him.

Here's the heartbeat of what I want to convey today.

In our information and technology age, kids are far more savvy than I was at their age. They are far more aware of all sorts of things than my generation was. In those narcissistic and emotionally charged years of puberty, these kids are being thrown way more than ever crossed our radar at that age.

And I, for one, think there is a huge void here that needs to be filled. I think that if we want to ground our kids in a faith that they won't let go of as they leave our homes, then we must be intentional to pour into them way back before their teen years. We must be intentional to have spaces where they feel safe asking questions and having dialog beyond pat "Sunday School" answers. 

As the world has become more complicated and more accessible, we, as the Church, must keep up with it, for our children's sakes. 

If we want to see a generation taking their place with a rock solid faith to change the world for Jesus, then we have to do something about it. We have to be aware of the gaps and the voids and the places where kids are actually hungry for some meat to chew on. 

Because they are. These girls fill my living room, practically sitting on each other's laps, and they are starving for some solid and hard and authentic conversations about the truths from the Bible. They just need someone who is willing to show up and listen and answer and invest. 

They need somewhere that they are welcomed and loved and respected and heard. 

The majority of the girls in my group attend church regularly. They have parents who are imparting God's truth to them. They are involved in youth groups and other activities. But this group is something else. God's Girls allows them to have an environment of peers from their school where they can form a community and learn together how to be light in their particular world. The world they share, in their public school. 

I am not trying to replace their Sunday School or their church gatherings. I am not trying to usurp the teaching from their parents. I see now that God's Girls is a supplement to all that and it solidifies and repeats and emphasizes the other places where they learning about God. It is unlike any other organization that gathers students under the name of Jesus. 

This is a group of various faith backgrounds that meets in a home, in a smaller setting, and they share a snack together. They share common spaces at school and they have same-gender peers who are all learning together how to navigate friendships and how to run to God with all their concerns. 

My prayer is that they are discovering a genuine faith which will grow deep, deep roots alongside all that they gain from their churches and their families. 

The truth is that if we want to see the next generation rise up for Jesus in a crazy world, then it won't happen by wishing. It won't happen by thinking about it. 

But it can happen when we dare to gather them together and be present with them. 

My heart nearly bursts when I think of all the what if's. What if these girls really learn how to respond to their stresses by turning to prayer and the Word? What if they really do see their God's Girls peers in the hallway and offer a hug and a prayer on a hard day? What if they keep reaching out to show love and support to the hurting and the lowly and the marginalized through our outreach initiatives? And they carry this on for ALL THEIR LIVES? What if they have this faith to fall back on before they reach a place where drugs and alcohol and boyfriends all come calling for them? What if they keep gathering and they enter high school and they avoid the pitfalls because a foundation has been set?

What if they blaze new trails in the name of Christ because their faith was fed and encouraged? What if they head off to college and career and they can look back and see that the tiny seeds planted in their formative years contributed to who they become in Christ?

Listen, if we want to see the next generation grow deep roots and thrive in a living and active faith in Jesus Christ, then we can be part of it. We can dare to keep pace with all the messages that are being thrown at them by gathering them in our living rooms and reminding them who Jesus is and how he loved them to death and how he walks with them through it all. 

We can counteract all the information and the temptations and the pitfalls by pouring into them with love and care and attention. Guiding them through the Bible and using resources and creativity to make faith real to them. We can do so much by helping to create a community where they feel they belong, not because of their looks or their interests or any other common factor but this... a curiosity to know more about God.

I, for one, think it's high time for adults to really grasp how hungry and smart and capable kids these days are. That we might harness all that they have to offer by giving them spaces to explore and grow their faith. 

So that they mature into adults who step out bravely in obedience with a faith so strong that they glorify the name of Jesus in all that they do. A generation of world changers. A generation of Jesus lovers. A generation of servants who are crazy about the Master of the Universe. 

What if we took part in unleashing that kind of next generation?

What if?

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