Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.- 1 Timothy 4:12
I have had the pleasure of mentoring and just being around some very mature young people in my ministry. I have had some of the deepest conversations with several of them and have been challenged in my faith while answering their questions. I have heard some things out of their mouths that have caused me to cringe but, I have also heard things out of their mouths that have made me grow. These young men and women are some of the brightest people I have met and some of them are, statistically, people who should not be able to have these conversations.
Some are raised in low-income households, single parent homes, and foster homes. They have been in and out of juvenile facilities, and much more. I have met girls that have been abused, raped and molested but, they are resilient and have become some of the strongest young women I have encountered. Their experience in life has caused them to grow up too fast, yet gain more maturity than some 20 or 30-somethings I know. They have had to learn how to fend for themselves and keep living. They have learned how to speak to get their voice heard and when to stay silent in order to hear others. They have chosen to step up and serve, even when they should be the people being served.
It is incredible to be a part of this work and witness young people rise to action. These are students that are looked at as being just “students” but, I am sure they can teach us a thing or two. They are looked at as being kids but, they act more adult than some adults do. They rise to the challenge of life and are willing to take it head on. They set examples for their peers and for their community as they do what they do best: Live!
We do a disservice to young people when we ignore their talents or abilities. We hinder their potential when we choose to speak for them. Let us acknowledge that maturity is not something you gain by age, but by experience. Through that experience we gain the ability to know when to speak and when to listen or when to speak up or stay silent. These young people may have something to teach us, but we have to allow them to do it. Maybe, just maybe, we will see the change in our society we long for with young people knowing adults are valuing their experience.
Question: How would communities change if young people were more involved in decisions? How can the Church benefit from youth feeling as if their experiences matter?