Like many other young teenagers, I grew up in a good home, I went to a great public school, I played multiple sports, I ran around my neighborhood shooting BB guns, and generally had an excitement for life.
But so many things happened during my teen years. Friends that I trusted let me down. I got cut from my eighth-grade basketball team and my hopes for the NBA were dashed. My neighbor friend who was a few years older wrecked his parents’ vehicle and passed into eternity due to his injuries. I experimented with dip and cigarettes. I flirted with girls to get their attention and ran with friends that were a bad influence.
Despite my great upbringing, I was on the wrong path!
I grew up in church. I knew right from wrong. I had plenty of people who cared about me, but I struggled with direction and purpose for my life. One life-altering moment for me was at a youth camp. I was empty. I was broken. I felt helpless. But I encountered a God who loved me. I connected with people who weren’t perfect but had something to live for.
As a freshman in high school, I made a commitment to search out this God thing and find out if it was real. I started reading the Bible for myself. I began a spiritual journey that has changed every aspect of my life.
Everything that I am, every good thing in my life, every blessing that I have received, every person that I call my friend, has something to do with that decision I made when I was 15 years old.
Is it possible? Do the life events of a teenager really shape the entirety of their life journey? It sure did for me!
I would ask you to evaluate your experiences as teenager and consider what would be different now if you had chosen differently then? Our choices make and break us. We generally make a handful of our most important life-altering decisions as a teenager or early twenty-something.
Who we make friends with in high school determines what activities we get involved with. How we do academically, determines where we go to college. How we do in college determines what kind of job we end up working. Who we choose to date or marry determines the foundation of our family. Our sexual choices create little people that we are responsible for who depend on us for leadership and provision. How we handle our relationships as a young person sets us on a track of encouragement or brokenness.
I have come to this conclusion: Young people need our investment. Young people need at least five people in their lives who will care about them and tell them the truth about life and their choices.
If we want to see our nation change for the better? If we want to see less hate and more positive actions in our generation? If we want to see our community fully recover from recession? If we want to address the heroin epidemic in our county? I think it starts with making an impact on the next generation. It starts with the young people in our families, in our churches, in our schools, in our neighborhoods.
This month we are going to discuss how we have failed the next generation and what we can do to help them get on the right path for success in life.
Shane Rhodehamel is the Lead Pastor of Faith Family Church in Wilmington. He has been married to his wife Amie for 18 years and they have three kids who are involved in Wilmington City Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.