Equipping young people for life in these turbulent times – part 2

— by Tom Sine —

Tom SineLast week we shared some creative ways to enable us to prepare Gen Next to do more with less as their generation is likely to make less than their parent’s generation.  This week we want to explore ways to enable Gen Next to also become more innovative in making a difference and making a living.

Reimagining youth ministries for changing times
Many youth ministry programs, just like the hovering parental models, seem to be endlessly focused on doing for the young in a very passive/receptive model of ministry.  I am convinced that one of the reasons we are losing so many young from our churches these days is that we don’t challenge them to create and launch new missional initiatives of their own

In my 2008 book, The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time, I describe how an Anglican church in London, England, took the risk of inviting the imagination of young people in their church.  Instead of hiring a middle-aged couple to put on a more appealing worship service for the young, leaders at Saint Mary’s invited the young people themselves (those in their teens, twenties, and thirties) to plant a church within a church.  The result, called Grace, has evolved into a twice-a-month weekend evening service followed by a café gathering. Older people can attend, but they can’t mess with it.  It belongs to the young people and still offers some of the most creative worship experiences I have found.

If we are serious about wanting to keep young people in our churches, we need to take the risk of asking for their ideas and inviting them to reimagine and reinvent our churches.  If they help us reinvent our churches and our youth ministries, they will “own” them too, and I predict they will help us grow our churches.

How can youth workers seriously invite the innovative ideas of teens and help them actually launch new possibilities?  Take a look at the LAUNCH program at Youth Unlimited in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada. They invite teens to come up with their own ideas of how to make a difference.  If the ideas appear to have possibilities, they assign the young innovator(s) a mentor and help them to give birth to a new possibility.

Jared is a student who came up with the idea for Pocket Change Clothing, an apparel company with a heart for kids around the world.  They make fair-trade clothing in Toronto, and their profits help support the Freedom House Orphanages in Haiti.  What might happen if you challenged the creativity and initiative of the young in your church?

Reimagining Christian education for changing times
I am impressed by the creative ways K-12 educators in Mennonite and Reformed Christian schools are preparing the young for a climate change future though innovative courses on sustainability, but I have found very little that is equipping the young for an “economic change future.”

I have found that educators in Europe are much more aware than their US counterparts that an aging population will likely lead to continued economic slowing.  Governments in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Ireland started educational initiatives in entrepreneurship early in the new millennium, with the explicit mission of raising a crop of young people who would start new businesses, creating more jobs, and increasing economic growth throughout Europe.  A number of secondary schools also offer courses in financial stewardship, so these young entrepreneurs are also skilled money managers.  These programs seem to be making a difference for both the grads and, increasingly, the economy at large.

These educators place much less emphasis on information acquisition and much more emphasis on problem-solving, collaboration, invention, and launching new ventures.  Wouldn’t it make sense for Christian schools to consider shifting their educational focus to include a more entrepreneurial focus for life in these rapidly changing times?

Wouldn’t it make sense for Christian schools to not only teach entrepreneurship but also help students actually create new small businesses?  Can you imagine the gift it would be to a student who graduates from Eastern University or Wheaton College in 2020 who can’t find a job but knows how to start a small business because of the skills she learned in a Christian high school?

Harvard educator Dr. Tony Wagner has a new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.  It is an excellent resource for educators looking for a starting place.  It shows how to enable the young to be not only business entrepreneurs but social entrepreneurs as well.  We can show the young we work with how they can “do good by doing well.”

Don’t we as parents, youth workers, and educators owe it to generation next to reimagine and reinvent how we equip them to live, work, and make a difference in a world that is significantly different from the one we got started in?

Do you have ideas as to how we can equip the young to not only focus their lives on making a difference but also to find creative ways to sustain themselves and their families in tough economic times? Please Contact Me and share innovative ideas you have seen or have come up with…or to offer any push back.

This post (and part two) originally appeared as a guest post in: Blog Post, Evangelicals for Social Action- June 2013.