Finding the Source
You live near a river, and you visit it often. One day, you notice a baby on a raft floating down the river. You don’t know how it got on the raft, or to you, but you know you can’t leave it. So you get the child, take it in your home, and care for it.
A few days later, you’re at the river again. Suddenly, you see two babies on rafts coming towards you. Still confused, you do what you did last time – you save the children and take them home.
Another week goes by. You’re almost afraid to go to the river, but you felt compelled. Lo and behold, five babies on rafts! Realizing that this is a bigger issue than you can handle, you rally your friends for help.
And as the weeks go on, more and more children are being saved, requiring more and more resources. You feel overwhelmed by the need, yet you are energized knowing that you are doing your part to help.
But if all you are doing is saving babies, you just might be a failure.
At some point, you need to ignore the babies floating down the river, and go upstream to find where the heck they are all coming from. You need to get to the source.
When you look at generational poverty, it’s clear that most efforts in the past 50 years (or more) have not dealt the core issues. We have focused most of our efforts on saving children downstream. And while our efforts are commendable and necessary, we may actually be doing more harm than good by only addressing the symptoms and effects of poverty.
A Range of Opportunities
As we have worked with kids in Allendale, we constantly wonder What Age Group Should We Focus On? Where should we (and others) direct the bulk of our energies to have the maximum and longest-lasting impact?
The best answer I can come up with is that all age groups need attention. You could focus on any of these 8 general time frames:
- Unborn children
- Infants (0 – 2 years old)
- Preschoolers (3 – 5 years old)
- Early Elementary (Kindergarten – 2nd grades)
- Late Elementary (3rd – 5th grades)
- Middle School (6th – 8th grades)
- High School (9th – 12th grades)
And even in these categories, you can work in a number of ways. For example, you can . . .
- Work with youth hands-on in a specific age group
- Support and equip parents who have kids in a specific age group
- Support teachers and the schools (for a specific age group)
- Rally, organize, and lead volunteers who work with kids, parents, teachers (in a specific age group)
With 8 x 4 = 32 combinations, you cannot do it all! And spreading yourself over too many possibilities can leave you worn out and/or ineffective.
My gut tells me that we could each select up to 2 or 3 of these combinations. For example, my wife and I have focused on 1) working hands-on with elementary-age children, 2) supporting elementary school teachers, and 3) (for me) ministering to teenage boys through coaching football. (And we have dabbled in other areas – such as with middle school children and recruiting volunteers.)
If this is true, than it takes at least a dozen committed people to cover the entire spectrum of age groups. And even if we had a team this size, the breadth of our impact would be small. Truly, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:27; Luke 10:2).
But have we found the source of the problems? Be sure to read this post, to hear the opinion of a close colleague.
- Equality Is Not Equity
- 3 Basic Problems in Allendale: Poor Education, Teenage Pregnancy, and Disconnected Dads
- Insight About Students and What They Need
**image courtesy of planetka via sxc.hu