I have the awesome privelege of being the youth leader to the junior high crowd at my church. It is an amazing group of kids, and I feel so blessed to get to know them. However, within in this group their are teens and pre-teens from all different kinds of families- some are homeschoolers, some are public schoolers, some have been adopted within the last couple of years out of Russian orphanages, some are friends that come along for the candy. We really have a wide ranging mix.
One thing that I have become concerned about, is not the level of education the kids are getting, but the amount of "real learning" that I think is missing from their lives, and their stunted ability to seek out information if they are interested in something. For example, every week, I present them with a challenge - to find out how much they were paying attention during the sermon from the previous week. It could be as simple as asking what color the pastor's sweater was, or as complicated as asking them to cite a scripture reference, or finish a quotation. Last week I asked them to fill in one word of a quote Porky gave from Ralph Waldo Emerson. During the class, one of the younger students raised her hand - (which thrilled me - I love it when they ask questions - that means they're listening and interested!) - and asked, "Who is Ralph-whatever?" So I gave them an assignment to find out. I wanted them to come in with one simple statement about him.
For a couple of years, I have been explaining to the kids who just recently graduated up to the senior high group that questions are so important. It is so hard sometimes to put yourself out there for embarrassment or ridicule by raising your hand and asking a question, especially as a teenager. I have encouraged them over and over by saying, it is okay not to know - but it is not okay not to WANT to know. Ask the question, and seek the answer until you find it - and to apply this not only to the entire world around them, but passionately to the word of God.
That little sweetheart will never know how precious her raised hand and her question were to me. In our society where we are used to immediate gratifcation, I think she was a bit disconcerted to find that I did not immediately provide her with the answer to her question. But, how much more will I provide them with if I can only plant in their little hearts that spark that sends them hungry on a quest for an answers, and a lifetime of real learning.