My Great-Grandmother, who has lived in Ellijay for nearly a century, feels sorry for my wife. You see, my wife grew up in Kennesaw, and she doesn’t have any family here in Ellijay.
This makes my Great-Grandmother sad. Why, you might ask, should it make her sad? Kennesaw isn’t that far away, and you would have a valid point. But my Great-Grandmother grew up in a time in which community was more than an abstract idea, it was an ever present reality, and she can’t imagine a world without it.
Steven Garber wrote, “Community is the context for the growth of convictions and character. What we believe about life and the world becomes plausible as we see it lived out all around us.” This is a nice way of saying that you become the kind of person you watch and grow up around. Many of you have had your convictions and your character shaped by teachers, coaches, parents, the military, churches, and pastors since you were young. Unfortunately for many in the “millennial” generation (from ages 13-30) these traditional areas of community have been sorely lacking. This is a problem, but it is also an opportunity.
Spend time with a teenager or a young adult and you will likely find someone whose character and convictions are shaped as much by television, movies, celebrities, the internet, and pop-culture as by a parent, a coach, or a pastor. This isn’t about casting blame on the kids or the parents, it’s simply the reality of the individualistic, globalized world we live in. But it doesn’t have to be the reality for everyone, and it certainly isn’t God’s ideal plan. Christians have a responsibility to cultivate the convictions and character of the next generation.
God’s plan is for parents, and for Godly men and women to train young people in the truth about God, and model for them how to live Godly lives. In Deuteronomy 6 they are commanded to pass down truth about God to the next generation with the love of God as the ultimate goal. In Titus 2 older men and women are taught to train younger men and women how to practically apply their convictions about God to life, or how to develop Godly character, and to live with wisdom. This doesn’t take trained professionals, it just takes anyone willing to sacrifice a bit of their own time and energy and love for the sake of another. I challenge you to answer that call and invest in the life of someone around you today. Maybe we can’t all have our extended family living within a couple miles of us like my Great-Grandmother, but we can still be the kind of community that loves and invests in one another, and especially in our young people.
Caleb Land is the director of the Gilmer Christian Learning Center in Ellijay, GA. You can find out more about the CLC at www.gilmerclc.org.