This is a question we think a lot about because we really do have a conviction to offer significant, long-term change to the men we work with. Plus, we want that in our own lives as well. We are not looking for a mountaintop experience.
I spent most of my adolescence and college years being so concerned about getting my spiritual life right. Bible studies, prayer meetings, scripture memorization; All beautiful and great things. In fact now at 42 years of age, I find myself returning to those practices with a new heart. With a spirit that embraces those disciplines. If I was to look back on the last 25 years at what created the most impact it was seeing others model a healthy walk with God. It was dialoguing with those that had been down the road further than I had traveled; asking them the hard questions about faith, family, money, and other awkward topics that I had more questions than answers for.
I can remember when I was on Young Life staff right after college. I wondered about marriage and family. Asking God to show me the way. I had a great opportunity to be on staff with two families. The Cummings and the Parkers. There were times that I lived with both of these families as I spent time with kids from Manchester and Clover Hill High Schools outside of Richmond VA. Both of these families had young children at the time so I got a front row seat to Christian parenting. Neither of these families' were perfect, not by a long shot, but it gave me a framework for me to be intentional about my desires of how I wanted my future family to be. Now as I look back I am so glad for how beautifully messy these families were. Each trying to pay bills, love each other, and honor God. I had to be shown how to do family, and somewhere in all of that I was changed, my convictions were solidified.
I have a strong desire every summer to have the young men that are in the program spend a good amount of time with my family. For two reasons: One, that the guys get to see what family looks like, what marriage and parenting look like, to give them a snapshot to help them know how they want their future families to look like. Two, that my family would know the mission, that they would realize that our family as a unit has a role in Kingdom work.
Alyssa, Corey’s wife (Sarasota staff), asked me about 6 weeks ago about her role with the young men down there in Florida. It was a beautiful question; “If Corey spends all this time with the guys, what am I supposed to offer them?” The funny thing about the answer to her question was that she was already offering something to the guys. She was providing a Godly example of a wife and a woman. Our young men desperately need to experience a strong Godly woman. Especially as they start to make decisions about their future wife. They also need to see what a Christian marriage looks like; how to walk through conflict resolution and how to be unified on certain topics. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but, providing these models is so important as young men take ownership of their faith.
All this to say, we are changed for the long term by those we choose to surround ourselves with. Mostly those that are older than us. My challenge to you is the same challenge I give myself and the young men. Find out who you admire in the faith, and observe how they live their life, their disciplines, their relationships, their decisions.
It almost feels too easy, like we have been told that the keys to the spiritual life are study and hard work, yet but what if we just need to show, invited into another life so we have an image of what relationship with Jesus looks and smells like. And that is why what we do with young men is so important. Everything we do is building relational context so that a younger generation can spend time with an older generation.