In my opinion

Raising city kids in a small town

Contributing writer

A friend once told me that God allows children to become teenagers so that parents will allow them to move out.

We laughed when we heard the quip, and perhaps there is some truth in it. It would seem though, that as a culture, we are raising teenagers in a much different time than ever before, and I believe that we don’t grasp the significance of it.

A few years ago a professor of youth ministry (yes, there is such a thing) set out to understand youth culture. What he found was eye-opening to many adults.

The book is “Hurt” by Chap Clark, who has written an update for the social media age, “Hurt 2.0.”

Despite it having been written by a youth ministry professor, the book is not solely for people in the church. The research is applicable across a broad spectrum of people, namely anyone who thinks that teenagers are a valuable segment of the population.

When people find out where we are from and where we live, they want to know why we moved to Marion. One of the things we really liked about Marion was that it was a great place to move to as a young family that was raising kids.

Within the first few years, as I got to know the kids in the community, something became evident. With access to media, social media, and some of the situations they were facing in their own homes, these were big-city kids living in a small town.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. When our youth leave here and go to college or join the workforce we want them to be able to understand the culture they are entering with little trouble. What we don’t want is to sacrifice the values that small town America provides.

The events that have been in the paper the last couple of weeks involving some of our young people are not unlike things that we would read in other cities. What is different is we know some of these young adults. We have watched them succeed in school. We have cheered for them at sporting events. We have sat with them in our sanctuaries.

Most young people make mistakes. That said, we hope that those who come after us will learn from our mistakes so they don’t repeat them. If that doesn’t happen, we hope that we have given them the tools to learn from their own mistakes the first time so that history doesn’t repeat itself in their own lives.

We must take seriously the people they are, the people they are becoming, and if we are afforded a role in their lives, we must not be shy to share our values with them.

When my son is going through a growth spurt, it is as though his feet become switched and he trips a lot as his mind is adjusting to working with a bigger body. He looks up kind of shocked that he fell down, and I say to him, “Pop up, keep moving.”

As they go from being middle schoolers to contributing members of society some 10 to 18 years later, our young adults are in the longest figurative growth spurt of their lives. This does not excuse the times they fall down. But as people who value them, lets encourage them to learn from their mistakes, get back on their feet, and move forward in life armed with the tools to not make the same mistake twice.

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