What I Just Learned from Teenagers and 20-somethings (It’s something good)

pypsSometimes the best learning happens when you don’t know you’re learning.

This past weekend the church welcomed the Presbyterian Young People’s Society Winter Weekend. A bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings arrived on Friday evening and stayed until Sunday afternoon. They organized the event themselves—everything from planning, to worship, to discussion groups, to activities, and more.

From what I could see, they had a blast.

Westminster provided space and some equipment; we prepared a lot of food; and had many serving as billets for the sleepovers. Karen Horst (a veritable cannon of energy) was the theme speaker reflecting on the different seasons of faith in one’s journey.

But in terms of overall organization and content, it was self-directed. (To read PYPS president Holly Boyne’s own reflection on the weekend click here.)

To be honest, I didn’t have much to do with the weekend, other than help ensure it happened and facilitate discussions between some key leaders. So it allowed me a kind of vantage point from which to watch things unfold.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.” So said Henry Ford. So here are some things I learned:

1. The first thing I learned is that today’s young people are living in a different world than I did when I was their age. And it can be tough.

I’m 36—which means that high school was half my life ago. Yup, there are similarities: Social pressures, dating, reputations, classes, home life, identify formation (Does some of this stuff ever stop?), the list goes on.

But things are different too. In my view, the world is getting smaller and more hostile. And young people are under incredible pressure to be a lot of things to a lot of people. That’s a burden no one should have to bear. Plus, is it just me or is our society becoming less and less sure about what ‘healthy’ is? So decent role models for life are not as easy to find as you might think.

In light of all this, these pressures shouldn’t be carried alone. We all need community. Real community. It’s part of how we can support each other including our young people.

2. The second thing I learned is that there’s a lot of fun to be had.

I make it a habit to do fun things. (More so now that I have 3 kids under 5.) But with the PYPS weekend, I was reminded that sometimes the big fun has to do with getting out of your comfort zone and just going for that new experience. (Alex, I admire your bravery! — thanks for that.)

We can all get too serious sometimes. But fun cultivates an intimacy and friendship you can’t fake. Plus it’s just, um… fun! And the Lord knows we all need the humbling, smile-inducing authenticity that serious (and safe) fun creates.

3. The third thing I learned was this: The people who think there’s no hope for the future, or that all today’s young people are disrespectful or lost, are the ones who haven’t spent time with some of the best of today’s young people.

I like to think we are all hope heralds and captains of a ship whose pathway and destination of grace is sure. I saw some of that this weekend. Young people with character, praying and working together to give this world a go and make it better. That is just awesome to see.

I wish we could host it all again next weekend.

Sometimes people say that youth are the future of the church. Yes and no. They’re actually the NOW of the church. Along with the babies, and seniors and in-betweeners. Let’s stop fretting about a future that’s yet-to-be, and be vibrant in the now that is.

In his explorations, Ponce de Leon was looking for the fountain of youth. Instead, he found Florida. In life we need a reminder once in a while that the fountain of youth isn’t an age, or even a destination, but a spirit.

And that spirit is alive. Is it alive in you?


  1. Sounds like a fun weekend. I’ll be pondering this as Nathan and the other two get older. It’s great to see them in an environment where they can grow, have fun, make friends and find a supportive community.


    1. Hi Crystina, it was a great time and I think it would be a wonderful environment for your kids. There are actually several adults in our congregation who attended PYPS events when they were young, and the experience(s) made a deep and lasting impression. And I think there’s something profound in the organization being self-directed. As they say “ministry by youth, for youth.”


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