High School Boys, Dreams and the Church

For the last several years I’ve entered the third quarter with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, because the third quarter is the beginning of relationship education for seniors. We split the senior class into boys and girls for four weeks. Mrs. Sligh teaches the girls, and I teach the boys. Our goal is to help students grow in their ability to have healthy, God-honoring relationships. Of course, that’s not easy work, but it is enjoyable for me to speak to just the guys, to hear their perspective on things and give them a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions about relationships.

The Big Dreams of High School Boys

When I talk to other adults about what I’m doing, I usually get a response like, “Better you than me!” I understand why someone might say that. There’s a certain dread of facing the reality of a high school boy’s perception of relationships, but I don’t really see it that way. Sure, there’s some immaturity and braggadocio, and maybe even an off-color remark here and there, but what I’ve found is that these boys really do think about relationships. In fact, they even dream about what it might be like for them one day.

I think that’s part of what I really enjoy about teaching high school students in general. They still have big dreams. Some of the boys I teach dream about what it will be like for them to lead a business one day. They picture themselves making important financial decisions, directing those in their employ, and leaving an imprint of some kind on the world. They also dream about being husbands. They want to be able to provide for their wife. They dream about being fathers, and how they will interact with their children. They talk about taking their boys fishing or teaching them to throw a ball. They look forward to this stuff. It’s pretty cool to hear their dreams, as idealistic as they may be.

Thinking About a New Dream

This year, however, I was struck by one place where their dreams have not travelled. I asked them, “What are your dreams for the church?”

To be honest, the question kind of just came to me in the middle of class, and it sounded odd even as it rolled off my lips. I was met with largely blank stares. “What do you mean?” one boy asked. It occurred to me that no one had ever asked this question of me as I was growing up in the church. It never crossed my mind to insert myself into the future of the church. I’m not sure that when I was sitting where they were I would have understood the question either.

And yet, to miss this question is to miss so much more. My thoughts began to develop momentum and out-paced my ability to express them well in that moment, but now that I’ve had time to reflect I realize how important it is that we help our students learn to dream about the church.

It’s fantastic that these boys want to be great husbands and fathers, but how much more important that they understand the reality to which marriage points, Christ and his love for the church. Earthly marriage is until death do us part, but the church, God’s people united in Christ, will last forever. The purpose of earthly marriage is to be a picture of God’s redeeming grace extended to his people.

How do we help our students rejoice in that? How do we help them dream about how God might use them along with the rest of God’s people to act as agents of reconciliation? How do we encourage them to dream big dreams about proclaiming the glory of Christ in the world? How do we reorient their desires around the kingdom of God, so that work is good because it says something about God? How do we help them understand that all their relationships must flow from their relationship to God through Christ?

Perhaps, we must begin by asking these questions of ourselves.

Have we settled for small, earth-bound dreams and plans? Have we tacitly communicated that what is important is the transient and temporal? Have we severed the joy of marriage from Christ and his church? And next, have we considered asking our sons and daughters these questions? Do we ask them to dream about God’s kingdom? Do we teach them of the joy of living in community with God’s people, of worshipping together, and fulfilling the Great Commission?