You are a Leader

     One spring morning, my kids were playing in the front yard while enjoying one of the first nice days of the season. At some point, my attention turned to the lawn of my neighbor. You see, it was still very early in the season, but his lawn already looked beautiful! It was lit up by rare, early-spring, Michigan sun. A meticulously centered sprinkler swayed back and forth cascading the grass with water, helping its vibrant green to be magnified by the droplets that clung to each blade. It was obvious that he prepared his lawn for each season with the right kind of fertilizer, weed control, insect prevention… all the right stuff. And it shows.

     My lawn doesn’t look like his. I don’t tend to it more than a required weekly mow. There are some areas of crabgrass, a few dandelions, some sparse areas by the birch tree, and some dense areas that just seem to grow well on their own. As I compared my lawn to his, I acknowledged the obvious reflection each one gave to the care it received. About then, it reminded me how life is much the same and how our children reflect the care and nurturing they receive… or the lack thereof.

     For a moment, stand on the sidewalk and look at my yard. As you look collectively at the lawn, let each blade, each dandelion, each weed, each spurt of growth of any kind, no longer be what it is, but see each as a teenager. And you are no longer standing on the sidewalk. Instead, you are standing in section 214 of Ford Field, looking down on all those teenagers. And it is not a lazy day where you’re passing time. You are now at Battle Cry; A Christian outreach that travels from city to city in an attempt to win teens for Christ. In attendance are about 30,000 teenagers looking for something. Looking for guidance. Looking for meaning. Looking for hope. Looking for stability, love, friendship… but more than anything, looking for a leader in their life. You can be that leader.

     Why are they looking? Because they are hurting. Single parent households make a mom or dad stretch their resources thin. They provide, feed, shelter, and care for their children, but often lack the time to nurture their kids spiritually, emotionally, and with the definitive discipline that teens need for direction. In the end, whatever is lacking in this situation, it is the child who pays the most for what is missing.

     Two-parent households are not always the answer. There is a standard of living in this country that few adults refuse to do without. This almost always requires two working parents who scramble to get their kids to daycare, and then get themselves to a career. Often, two parents who each put high priority on their respective careers feel that providing for their children is their job, but teaching them is up to the schools.

     I do not mean to imply that we all run out tomorrow and change our lives. At least not completely. What I am saying is that YOU can be a leader. In fact, you ARE a leader whether you want to be or not. Each one of us has the opportunity to change lives. If we choose not to, we have still led. In fact, we have led the unknown to the never found. Therefore, we should choose to lead where we can, even if we don’t feel we can contribute much. An English Essayist in the 1800’s, Sidney Smith said:

     “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”

     Make no mistake. Regardless of what educational institution we put our children through; nothing has more impact on them than an adult positive role model who takes personal interest in their lives.

     If you’re like me, there was a time when you didn’t give our younger generation much credit. I didn’t. I saw what I saw and judged accordingly. I stereotyped the group by my observations and felt that the future of this country was doomed. I felt that today’s teens were too far lost to really want to be a part of something moral and good. They were disrespectful and spoiled. Then I witnessed something.

     John Macdonald is the youth pastor at my church. He wanted to create a place for kids to hang out on Friday nights. A place where they would be watched, cared for, and most of all, a place to keep them off the streets. John spearheaded a campaign to revamp a large room above the gym at the Christian school we’re affiliated with. Calling it “The Loft” it is complete with a state of the art sound system, and a stage for Christian bands to perform. When it was complete, the word went out. Teenagers were invited to spend Friday evenings at the school listening to music in the loft, or playing sports in the gym. On the first night, twenty-three kids showed up. The following Friday, that number doubled. Within four Fridays, more servants were called upon to help with the growing crowds. Today, they have to break the night into two parts, allowing younger teens for the first part, and older teens for the remainder of the night. The average attendance is over 300 teenagers each Friday.

     That many teenagers off the street, getting educated, playing physical sports, listening to music without cussing and racial slurs, and worshipping and accepting Christ. And probably the best result from this was actually unexpected. Parents who didn’t attend church before are being urged by their children to show up Sunday mornings!

     That started with one person and a vision. What if he didn’t act? What if he didn't choose to be selfless?  To be selfless is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.

     Do you have a hobby? The next time you fly your remote control plane, do you know of a kid who might want to try it? Could you skip a golf league one season and volunteer your time teaching kids at a driving range? Do you know something that teens may need to know how to do? Walk into your local church or community center and find out if they would like you to teach it.

      You see, our teens are like precious blades of grass; growing in some way as a reflection of their environment. Responding accordingly to the care they receive. Being the result of how they were prepared. Falling victim to the crabgrass that wants to impede their growth. Easily trampled, but as long as they have good leadership in their soil, they will always reach towards the sky!

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