Our youth are stuck in a social vortex that’s forever spinning ideas past them but never leading them to truth. Every person has an inborn desire to know why they are here, where they are going, and what life’s all about. Scientists and socialists, as well as academics and activists, all attempt to promote purpose to the young. But they fall short of purpose because each promotion has a selfish motive or human design behind it. Fortunately, the greatest power to uncover true purpose has always been reserved for the family. Even imperfect families teach valuable, albeit simple, lessons about purpose that can transform the heart and destiny of a young person.
Families preserve generational learning. This vital learning arms young people with lessons from the past as they combat trials along their life journeys. In an age when the elderly are being dismissed as antiquated, it is even more important that we realize how much impact a seasoned teacher can have on the heart of child.
Generational Impacts On The Youth
This last week a 78-year-old man talked to the youth at my church about trusting in the Lord. The large cultural hall was silent as he explained how the youth should listen to their parents and how he knew their parents prayed for them. He talked about mistakes he made as a youth and how repentance was a wonderful gift for all people. They saw an inspiring and wise man who loved and served God, even though he had struggled to be good as a youth. They saw, firsthand, what life was all about.
I wasn’t sure how an event like this would go since there are multiple youth at my church who could struggle sitting for a whole hour while listening to a speaker talk, but I wanted the youth to learn from one of their wise elders. Much to everyone’s surprise, the youth who usually have a hard time paying attention tuned in and stayed focused as the honest wisdom poured from the lips of Brent Peterson.
When I was in my teens, my view of the world was transformed because of the older people in my life. I had grandparents who talked to me about meaningful, deep things, parents who created inspired boundaries for me and taught me to love God more than myself, and teachers who had fought in WWII who weren’t afraid to shed light on the meaning and purpose of life.
These old teachers at my junior high were the favorite teachers, the ones everyone wanted to learn history from. Why were they so valued by the young? Because, without the youth even realizing it, they were the examples of what we wanted to be like when we were old. They were fun yet deep, smart, virtuous, candid, and sensible. We wanted to be just like Mr. Frandsen, Mr. Naylor, and Mr. Forshee when we were old people one day.
The Perversion of Purpose
When it comes to teaching and reaching the young people, society seems to be obsessed with the concept of relevance. We see this focus on relevance everywhere as messages targeting youth become more selfish, less refined, and seem to regress into childhood or infancy instead of inspiring youth toward adulthood.
The word relevance means that information shared is connected to the matter at hand, or that information is applicable to the current meaningful or purposeful cultural ideas. With this understanding, it’s easy to see why history, family, future planning, and real purpose are often topics that don’t get taught to children through media and school. Everything relevant must be current; this throws where we came from and where we are going out the window.
It looks like this. If I want to guide the thoughts of a child, I will apply my message to the selfish desires in the child, because those thoughts are the most relevant to the child in that moment. The selfish desires in the child are the means to controlling the child for the moment. By appealing only to desires, a child’s purpose can be completely perverted. A child could be led to think that their desire for fun should always be present in learning for learning to be accepted, or that the childhood desire to be big should be catered to by allowing the child to treat real big people with disrespect. A child’s desire for stimulation is easily pacified with a device or sexual education and a child’s desire for acceptance is catered to by social media or media discussions with peers.
4 Simple Steps For Putting Purpose On The Right Path
The word purpose comes from the Latin word propono. Pro means before and pono means to set in place. With a meaning that suggests a master planner having a plan for our lives, it’s no wonder that when most people look for purpose, they end up looking to spiritual leaders. Buddha said, “The purpose of life is to find your purpose in life, and then do it.” Jesus Christ told the rich young man to sell his worldly possessions and distribute his wealth to the poor. Then Christ admonished the man to, “come follow me.” The Bible essentially tells the stories of people finding purpose in their lives as they follow God. They find out who they are to God and what God wants them to do with their lives. Then, some characters follow God’s plan for them and others don’t.
Here are some simple steps that parents can take to put their child’s purpose on the right path.
1. Teach the children what purpose means and how their purpose is bigger than something that they like to do or enjoy. Purpose is about who you are meant to be for God. He already knows who we are supposed to be; we just need to align with Him.
2. Live a life of purpose yourself. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other influential adults who live their lives for a greater purpose than themselves show youth what a life of purpose really looks like so that they have a pattern to follow. It’s hard to do something that we haven’t seen done before.
3. Create a deliberate family culture and vision of who you are becoming as a family group. Deliberately embracing your unique family culture and purpose prepares youth to live with personal purpose. A purpose as a family gives the children the message that each person has a role to play in life, and that all people are vital for the group’s success.
4. Discuss deeply as a family. Talk about ideas in books, the media, current events, gospel, ideologies, world views, and more as you see people live their lives and are exposed to ideas. The closer youth come to truth through these critical conversations, the more they realize their identity and develop confidence. Talk casually each day, but also have meeting times set aside for the family to council together and for individual mentoring of the children to occur. As parents take time to open the communication door for their children, the children develop a habit of being mentored by their parents and coming to their parents for help with difficult decisions.
Much like Dorothy and Toto in The Wizard of Oz, our young people are caught in a social vortex that is truly dizzying. Maybe, like Dorothy, the solution is with family and home. In order to save Oz and to save themselves, youth need to focus on pointing themselves toward the lessons and values that they learned from their family members at home. There truly is no place like home.
In Nicholeen’s recent podcast, she goes into more detail about teaching children about purpose and taking responsibility for themselves. Hear the podcast here or on any other podcast app.