We are so excited about nearing the grand opening of the Ranch. Not just because it's a dream come true, but also because we believe wholeheartedly in the power of mentoring.
I was recently able to attend the Orange Conference in Atlanta, and while there, I gained a lot of vital information about kids and teens and about partnering with families. One of my breakout sessions was on raising healthy teens and connecting with a disconnected generation. In that particular session, I learned that kids cannot become healthy, successful adults without social capitol - meaning, people who invest in a child's life without an agenda. The average child needs a minimum of 5 non-parental committed adults to care about them and to mentor them.
While that number might seem overwhelming to a parent, I can look back on my own life and see just how true that statistic is. I grew up in a stable home as a doctor's daughter. We went to church often, and I knew my parents loved me. In short, I didn't have a difficult or challenging home life the way some other kids did. However, I was a willful, stubborn child bent on doing things my own way and in my own time. My fiercely independent attitude got me in trouble on more than one occasion. My free spirit continued into my teenage years and brought along with it an arrogance - a know-it-all way of looking at everything. I was an ambitious over-achiever academically, which was a saving grace many times; but I was also a sarcastic smart-aleck too (often regretting the words I quickly spoke as they came out of my mouth). And, while my feisty streak sometimes lead to troubling situations, I can be grateful that my defiant attitude didn't take me down a path to drinking, drugs, or promiscuity. Because of solid friend choices, I really wasn't rebellious. However, I was determined to live my life as I saw fit. Willful, stubborn pride - that's exactly what it was. A heart not yet soft to God's leading and guiding even though I claimed to follow Him.
If it weren't for my pastor, my youth pastor's wife, my teachers, my coach, my youth leaders, my friends' parents, and the countless hours they invested in me, I have no doubt I would be on a completely different path. From these amazing adults, I saw what it meant to live passionately for Jesus and to love and serve others steadfastly. They lovingly lead me to see aspects of leadership in my life and gave me avenues to serve, lead, learn and grow. They gave me room to make mistakes and a safe place to start over again when I failed. They saw potential in me that I had no capability of noticing on my own. It is because of their constant and consistent prayers, presence, examples, and empowerment that I let go of my selfish pride and determination to do things my own way. I turned to God and asked Him to lead me and guide me and help me bring glory to Him.
I treasure each adult that was part of my journey and who faithfully mentored me. Apparently, I needed way more than the recommended 5, and that's okay. I am extremely grateful.
For those of you who give week-in and week-out to the kids and teenagers in your life, don't give up. Keep stretching, sharing, and giving. To those of you who think the "5 caring adults" statistic may not be needed for your child who is raised in a steady home, let me kindly remind you of my background and yet how much I still needed other adults to lead by example and speak truth in my life. To those who think mentoring is a pretty great idea, Bright Side offers opportunities for adults to give and children to receive and then give back.
And, the stubborn, willful child we mentioned earlier? God now uses her determination to unswervingly pursue the vision set before her.