Who are your heroes? If your children or grandchildren answered, “Drug dealers, prostitutes, and gang members – those are my heroes. That’s who I want to be like,” you’d be devastated. You’d likely think there was no hope. You’d say to yourself, “Has everything I’ve done, everything I’ve taught and modeled to these children, been a failure?”
Maybe you don’t have cause for such grave concerns over your children, but you do look at the current culture and fear for your children, for their children, for their future, and the future of the nation. You want to know how to recolor the dire picture, how to save the culture.
The solution lies with the same people you worry about.
The new generations have the power to change the culture because they will build the future culture. (Click here to learn more about AFA’s ministry for investing in young people.) How they operate, the things they value, and where they invest their time and attention is of utmost importance. How children answer the questions “Who are your heroes? Who do you want to be when you grow up?” tell a lot about a culture, and it tells even more about their families.
Changing culture starts with the family. It begins with a positive role model of leadership, teaching, and good character, it carries on through hope and determination to dream, and it finishes with good opportunities.
American missionary Tom Corson witnessed the truth that when children are impacted, the dynamic of a culture begins to change. In a project with Compassion International, Corson’s ministry – Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT) – goes into poor city neighborhoods of Quito, Ecuador, to connect children with local church sponsorship programs.
“These are the kids who [really do] say, ‘I want to be a drug dealer. I want to be a prostitute. I want to join a gang,’” he shared. “In their culture, that’s their world.
“Fast forward and look at these same kids once they are engaged with church and projects we’re doing through Compassion, and they want to be teachers, doctors, lawyers. It is because we’re showing them a good world, a healthy, wholesome world.”
The local pastors and churches share the love and truth of Jesus, they show children that people care and see their potential, and they connect with families to transform their lives at home. At the same time, they provide the children with good nutrition, educational materials, and computer access so that they will have the ability to make use of the investment poured into them. Based on the children’s ready response, their efforts are not in vain. Perhaps in the next generation, the drugs-and-prostitution-culture now considered normal in these neighborhoods will be transformed by those who have recognized something better and rejected that life.
That kind of mental rewiring can and does happen with children in our own country as well. SIFAT also works in the U.S. to bring children and youth to its Lineville, Alabama, campus and show them a lifestyle they have never imagined and a purpose they have never realized. The campus is a third world missions training camp with simulated experiences of what it is like to live in the poverty of an urban slum and the limitations of a rural international village. Visitors are taught how to help make life better for those living in such conditions. They are also taught the dignity and potential of every person. The experience changes the way children think about themselves and their lives as well as how they perceive the world and their place in it.
“We’ve had kids come here that were at risk, kids on welfare, who thought the world owes them a living,” said SIFAT founder Sarah Corson. “But after they went through the campus programs, you could hear them talking, and one child said to another, ‘I thought we were poor. But we’re not poor. We’ve got a lot. We ought to do something to help these people.’
“It just changes the mentality of kids from feeling like they’re victims because they don’t have a nice new car when they turn 16 to seeing how much God has given them and their responsibility to others.”
Changing the course of culture for future generations can happen when children find themselves in a situation that challenges what they have believed or experienced. Or it can happen when someone from the outside comes in and exhibits character, purpose, and compassion that they had never before encountered.
But the most immediate and powerful place that it happens is in a child’s own family – your own family. Model the character and teaching that you want to see carried onward, teach your children to dream and strive when they must, to accomplish their dreams, and let them learn the value of opportunities and how to be responsible with them when they come. Help the next generation to change the future.