My husband and I teach a Junior High Sunday School class. Last summer, the class read Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations* by Alex and Brett Harris. It challenged us to not be content with what is culturally expected of teenage behaviors and complacency. It set the bar higher with examples of teens running political campaigns, fundraising for good causes, etc. It even provided historical examples of great people who did incredible things at very young ages. (This is about giving teenagers opportunities while young and not waiting until adulthood; it is not about stressing teens out with too many activities. Reference “Pressure Cooker Culture: Is High School in America Becoming an Initiation into a Lifetime of Stress” for more on the subject of stress in high school students.)
Where can we bring our kids, or children/students we love, alongside us and teach them part of a trade/business or philanthropic pursuit?
Both of my sons (ages 14 and 8) would like to guest-blog on my site. All three of my children are participating in writing a children’s book with me. Chickie (age 11) learned to cook muffin tin meals over the summer in her Sunday School class. Now she serves us dinner one night a week.
It’s so simple, and yet, so many times I still get stuck in the mindset that it’s easier to do something for them than to teach them to do it—or even expect them to do it, and to do it well.
It honestly starts when you have your younger child sort the socks or stick bulk snack items in 20 ziplock snack bags for school lunches that week.
Or run a lemonade stand.
Or help oversee a garage sale.
And it builds confidence until they are soon running part of your home business or making calls to raise money for a good cause.
I’m a firm believer that God’s purposes for us do not start at 18 or 20-something. I’ve seen young children pray for other children, out loud, ministering and loving, like Jesus. They keep it simple and don’t trip up in theology. They just come straight to Jesus.
Over the summer, my very hardworking husband had promised to get my author web site up and running. But he also travels frequently. And he promised to build a loft bed for my teen. And he worked on a do-it-yourself system to heat the aging pool. And he counseled me over several areas of angst in recent months. And he loved on his kids.
So, I decided to take him off this assignment that was stressing us both out and really placing unreasonable expectations on one person (which is a really good blog subject for another day), and suddenly, there was my 14 year old man-son looking at me, looking old enough to take on this endeavor.
I commissioned Oldest Son to get a web site designed and running. And yes, he worked with templates within WordPress, but he sorted out various designs and layouts he thought would work with “Espressos of Faith” and researched/studied all widgets, metrics, and other features of the site. And with our permission, he launched the site, while we were on vacation, of course—because that’s how we roll. But he also checks the metrics, geographical information, search engine terms, and “clicks” on different links daily, and he advises me on good topics to post on which days based on metrics. He taught me how to navigate the site, and he is now looking into Google ads. He even instructs me in catchy titles and target words to use. Having someone else consider this side of the business frees me up to do what I love: write.
He can’t drive. He isn’t old enough to gain employment in very many places yet, but he has learned much about research, marketing, promotion, web sites, and advertising from his experience with his robotics teams over the years. Consequently, he served as a wonderful assistant all summer, so much so that I am considering putting him regularly on the payroll even during the school year. He did what I could not easily do on my own, and we both learned a lot about each other and the business in the process. Win-win.
I am very proud of all of the amazingly cool things my Junior High Sunday School students do with their lives already, and I could write volumes about any one of them. Today, with permission, I mention one particular student who has been boarding dogs in her home since she was 10 years old. She provides doggie spa services, plays with them, sets up obstacle courses, and produces a blog post about them while their owners are away. She also knows a tremendous amount about each breed and how to cater to their needs, and she maintains clear records for each pet. Her mother tells me that she now has 55 furry clients and people booking out for months in advance. My Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, had to plan their stay carefully around her other bookings, and they had a great time!
Can you imagine learning that much about caring for animals, interacting with adult clients, and employing siblings as needed, starting at 10 years of age?
Our Junior High Sunday School class over this summer has been working with different artistic media and technical arts to produce a short film—reality-show-style—of the account of Noah’s ark. In the process, we have learned much about the biblical account and the God who spared Noah and his family—fascinating facts not usually given attention in children’s books.
Our students have executed building the ark to scale (Minecraft), watercolored, oil painted, clay-modeled, cartooned, and sketched several scenes of the account. From start to finish, they chose the topic, planned the scenes, collaborated on who would take which part of it, brainstormed, listened to feedback, shared their lives, and encouraged each other. Next week we film.
Sound ordinary? Not to me. I know so many adults who can’t do this in a room together, even in a professional setting. Forget training sessions offered by Human Resources departments around the country! These students could offer team-building seminars on how to peacefully and graciously interact and build something together, allowing for differences and capitalizing on each other’s strengths, as well as taking a risk and trying something new or different, outside their comfort zones.
1 Timothy 4:12, Apostle Paul speaking
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” It’s not just what these teens do, although that’s very inspiring, but it’s very much what they learn along the way in how they do it—and what message that sends to the world around them.
*Harris, Alex, and Brett Harris. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2008.