Can you remember a time in your youth when you volunteered to help meet a need for someone else? Statistics tell us that about half of us did that because our friends were doing it.
In the same way that peer pressure can lead an impressionable youth down a dangerous road, such pressure can also work in the opposite direction.
This is a dynamic we are blessed to be able to watch take place each summer as we facilitate almost two straight months of week-long service opportunities for youth from all around the US, right here in Nashville.
Adolescence is a time of self-absorption--especially in the selfie generation. From the development of one's physique, to finding a sense of independence, to a desire to develop a certain reputation, youth often have a hard time thinking outside of what benefits them.
This summer, however, nearly 700 youth will give a collective 13,000 hours of service to those in greatest need in the Nashville area, just with our organization alone! They will experience how life-giving serving another in need can be.
Some will enter into the home of an elderly person who has received very little visitation and assistance with the upkeep of their environment. Through that experience, they will learn that their time, energy and a listening ear can be a tremendous blessing in a fast-paced world where the elderly are often left alone or ignored.
Others will go to 1 of 4 apartment complexes where they will facilitate kid’s camps for predominantly immigrant and refugee children. As they prepare crafts, games, and lessons, they will see the children's anticipation of their arrival each day, and see how their choices can create joy in the life of a child. They will also observe the gratitude of the parents of these children, who know without their help, their kids wouldn't have an opportunity like this.
In the end, youth serving with SLAM will give an estimated $94,000 of volunteer labor over the next two months.
Jesus teaches us that when we make the decision to spend our lives serving others, we find the best kind of life. Dying to selfishness and giving oneself in service isn't supposed to be a punishment, but an opportunity to experience the fullness God has for us. We believe this is a lesson that shouldn’t wait for adulthood. In fact, what better way to learn this lesson than alongside your friends, while you still possess the energy of youth?
So here’s to a great summer of service to those in need. Don’t forget to bring a friend along with you!