Train up a child the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
They called him “Pee Wee,” although he never really liked the name. He accepted it because at the time he was glad to be called anything. It was a lonely time. His family had moved to a new state leaving behind aunts, uncles, and cousins, but also every friend he’d ever known. The new city might as well have been a new world. The friends he made there were those who accepted him quickest and required of him the least. It mattered little to a fifth grader that they cussed, smoked, drank and ‘lifted’ small items from local stores. They were his friends. They liked him.
Although his parents worried about the noticeable changes taking place in their son, they didn’t know what to do, and surely didn’t want to over-react, be too protective, or too rigid. But they were concerned. So much so that just before Pee Wee began seventh grade, they moved across town in hopes that a new neighborhood and school would lead to new friends. In eighth grade, Pee Wee was hopping trains to ride across town to see the old cronies and continue now old habits. Being picked up for shoplifting at 15 years old was pretty tough. His mom cried a lot, and then just sat and prayed. His dad stood, staring into space, shaking his head, muttering to no one, “Where did I go wrong?” It was obvious to them that something had to be done. Drastic changes had to be made.
Over Christmas break all college freshmen like to go home and look up old friends. At eighteen Pee Wee was no different. Neither were his old friends. By then, one had been killed and another was in jail for manslaughter…a hunting accident he had called it. The other three were in jail doing hard time for trying to rob a gas station. There was no reunion. The friends were gone. Of the old gang, only Pee Wee had broken away.
As a minister who worked with youth, I often have questions raised by parents. Does the church really make difference? Is the youth group influence that strong? Is it really worth the trouble, time, money, and energy? I have always answered yes. I believe in youth programs. I know youth activities serve a purpose. I know God’s power is experienced in youth groups. I know because I’ve experienced the change. I’m Pee Wee, although I never really liked the name.
Prayer: Let me remember, Lord, that it is easier to train the young than change the old. Amen.