What kids believe

January 13th, 2017

Every Monday I meet with an amazing fourth-grader. This week we began work on a model car; to see the tiny parts required me to don my reading glasses. “I know these make me look old,” I told him.

“That’s okay Mr. Dave,” he said. “You’re still cool. (pause) To me.”

So I celebrate that an old guy like me appears cool to at least one person.

As a country, America celebrates. Especially at the start of a new year, everyone can find reasons to feel positive — regardless of whether your favorite professional football team plays in big games or your political party parades into office. Consider the officially-declared possibilities for joy throughout January: National Hot Tea Month. National Soup Month. National Mentoring Month.

Everyone has a personal favorite tea flavor and can of soup, so let’s look closer at mentoring. Specifically, who needs a mentor and why should churches and attendees care?

The answer requires a trip back in time to this day in the year 2004. Yes, that’s a long journey. For perspective’s sake, in 2004 today’s high school seniors attended kindergarten. Facebook launched in 2004 as a way for college students to connect. The Passion of the Christ movie was a theater blockbuster. And Phillips introduced the Miravision, a television that also served as a mirror.

Deeper reflection on 2004 shows that 11,265 U.S. children were born on this day (actually every day, on average). Applying other statistical averages, of those 11,265 children born on this single day in 2004: 

  • 3,380 will not graduate from high school
  • 3,266 live in a fatherless home
  • 2,478 live in poverty
  • 2,254 self-describe as lonely
  • 2,027 victims of reported abuse
  • 1,013 have ADHD (698 receive no treatment)
  • 5,858 admit to not attending church

And that’s just one day’s worth of kids. One day.

Because they were all born today in 2004, let’s wish them a Happy 13th Birthday. Actually, that’s a reason for real concern. Researcher George Barna published data that led him to conclude, “In essence, what you believe by the time you’re 13 is what you’ll die believing.”  

Soberly think about what those kids, born on this day in 2004, now believe about love, hope, opportunity, and how the world works. Not a happy thought, yet an accurate picture that provides high definition for why kids need mentors. Do the math; multiply each of those one-day figures by 365 to determine just the number of 12-year-olds that fall into those categories. What about ages six through eleven? The number grows crazy fast.

To answer the original question; these are the kids who need mentors. For the next question, addressing why churches and their attendees should care, consider the words from someone America celebrates in January also. According to Dr. Martin Luther King, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

What many people need most in this world is one person, just one, willing to spend time, to offer encouragement, to prove that there is someone who cares. Who listens. Smiles. And along the way stubbornly believes in the goodness that exists in every heart — young or old. Someone whose simple presence paints a hope-filled picture of how life could be. Or should be.

An amazing opportunity exists for churches to provide mentors for young people. That only happens, though, when a church’s heart for children beats strong enough to include kids who don’t attend. A pulse fueled by understanding that a church’s greatest resource is the love its attenders can share.

Too many kids stand just one reliable, caring adult relationship away from a new set of beliefs and a new life trajectory. Time moves fast; their 13th birthdays quickly approach. Someone needs to notice these children. Someone needs to care. Someone needs to believe, as Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.” 

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