Want To Raise Great Grownups?

Want To Raise Great Grownups? Let Your Teens See Awesome Young Leaders

By Colleen Sall

I’ve recently come back from my first-ever mission with Catholic Mission Trips (CMT). My 16-year-old daughter signed up with a bunch of girls she knows from our church who are on the cross country team at her high school. The week was to consist of various home projects in an economically challenged location in Kentucky. Folks needed ramps constructed for a wheelchair and a gurney, some serious handyman projects, and a front porch rebuild.

Our youth leader was both happy but stressed with so many teens signing up – he had a lot of kids but not enough adult chaperones. So…I ended up attending. It was a great experience for my daughter and for me!

Among the many benefits, chaperoning allowed me to see first-hand the leadership abilities of the older teens/young adults from our parish.

Additionally, the three young adults who were our CMT leaders were fantastic. They came from three different parts of the country and were placed by CMT as a team to decide which of the many proposed homes we would work on, determined the scope of the jobs, and secured all materials and tools. They also provided ministry and spiritual witness talks, created truly fun team-building and bonding exercises for the group at night, as well as arranged a professional musician to spend the week with us and coordinated a reconciliation service with the local parish.

As the week wore on, many unforeseen circumstances arose at each job site, changing the extent and amount of work that to be done. There were numerous details to continuously work out as well as adjustments for tools and equipment, all the while keeping the young people on the trip engaged and focused on their purpose of the mission – to serve and deepen their spirituality and service abilities.

To be sure, the older adult leadership from our parish – consisting of our youth ministry leader (early 30s) and the other adult chaperones (40s-70s) played a significant role in problem-solving and providing input and suggestions. This was to be expected.

However, I pointed out again and again to the teens in my group how impressed I was with the older teens/young adults who easily could have chosen to be on a beach somewhere for this week in June but who chose to come on the mission. These young people poured their hearts and souls into making the week productive, fun and meaningful.

I also pointed out the leadership abilities of the CMT crew as well as our youth minister since all of these folks are not so much older than the teens themselves. I did this so the teens could better envision taking ownership someday in the not too distance future doing important work, whether it’s on the job or guiding a volunteer group.

To be sure, the “fully fledged” adults who volunteered for the trip were more removed in age from the teens, but as they talked about their own lives when they were teens…guess what? They were the “involved” kind even then, serving as camp leaders, in the military, church youth group, etc.

The kids enjoyed all of these people of varying ages and everyone was fun and interesting, and we all had faith in common.

Sometimes I think it’s challenging for teens to imagine themselves as being the ones “in charge.” Our culture allows young people to be kids for much longer than previous generations. In many ways, toolspixabay (1)that may be a good thing, but in others, it may hinder their ability to take responsibility for themselves.

For me, the impact of the church mission trip was not only the goodness we performed and the bonds that we made with each other and the local folks, but the big takeaway was the empowerment and sense of accomplishment doing work like this provides.

Seeing the young people do such an awesome job was inspiring to me – and to my daughter as well. So lucky for us to be surrounded by so many giving, accomplished folks! Fortunately, there are people like this all around, so take advantage of allowing your child to be involved in your place of worship, community or school.

The benefits and rewards are immeasurable!

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