Children who listen will be able to transition to young adults who are responsible and ready to serve? Why? Because they have been trained to be tuned in.
Samuel as a child learned early to say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” He grew to become a trusted leader. Children who develop a posture of listening will find it easier to listen for the voice of God, listen for what needs to be done, listen for the needs of their neighbors, and know that life is much bigger than themselves.
“Teenager” is a word first used in a 1941 Reader’s Digest, and it has come to mean “a young person with most of the desires and abilities of an adult, but few of the expectations or responsibilities.”
Most westerners now accept adolescence as a strange and difficult period marked by wild mood swings, outbursts of temper, rudeness, rebellion and personality change. All of these are considered involuntary, largely beyond the control of the young people concerned.
Yet, as Otto Scott observed, this characteristically volatile period in a person’s life “was unknown, unrecognized and unseen in every previous civilization, culture and society.” Even today, the phenomenon is unknown in large parts of the world. Christians must push back against the concept of adolescence as a time of irresponsibility.
A thoughtfully designed high school can be an excellent counter to this low view of adolescence. High school should be a time for serious responsibility, not just trivial or busy-work homework assignments, not just getting through the individualized study units as fast as possible. It should offer significant opportunities for service, including both assigned and voluntary kinds of opportunities. Students should be assessed regularly on their growth in responsible serving.
There’s a lot of thinking and brainstorming and praying that needs to happen as we who lead schools seek to provide the best environment possible to grow children who love the Lord and love to serve. This is a conversation that needs to happen not only at the school, but in the church and community.
Families must carry this vision. Those of us who are leading in schools must stay in for the long haul and learn to advocate for a community that raises its children well. It is worth every prayer, every ounce of energy we expend, every summer that we give to planning well for the next year, every conversation that we have with board members, with parents, with church leaders. This is worth it. This is some of the most significant and rewarding work that exists.