A pastor. A physical therapist. A builder. An investment banker.
Since its inception, ARISE has attracted diverse groups of people, and this year’s class was no different. Diversity is one of ARISE’s greatest strengths, but also presents one of our greatest challenges. How so? Well, not only are the students diverse professionally, they are also quite so in other areas like age, life experience, academic inclination, personality, marital status, nationality and more. This being the case, each class takes on a character all its own, and you never really know what kind of class it’s going to be.
We’ve never had a bad class; not one in 15! We have had some, how shall we say, challenging classes, but challenging and bad are not the same thing. For example, I have two children, Landon and Jabel. Both are great kids, but one is more challenging than the other. Not worse, not bad, just challenging. As a parent, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The challenging one keeps me on my parental toes and forces me to not be lazy or undiscerning in my decision making. To be clear, he’s not trying to be challenging; he’s just being, well, him. But him is also—you guessed it—challenging.
ARISE Australia 2015 was a great class.
And a challenging one.
It was, I’m pretty sure, our youngest class ever, statistically. Out of 36 total, we had about a dozen 20 year olds or younger. Add to that, our oldest student was our youngest-ever, oldest student. (Did you follow that?) And you know what’s really scary? He was my age! That means that after 15 years of doing this, alas, I’m getting older.
Youth brings with it energy, enthusiasm, passion and idealism, but also inexperience and sometimes immaturity. This class was high energy.
This class had character. (And a lot of characters!) Their energy, youth, zeal and passion is just what many of our churches need!
Here’s a humorous example. Our chairs here at ARISE Australia are anything but comfortable. Hard. Plastic. Yellow. Ugly. Just how we like them (just kidding). This being the case, one health and posture-conscious student went out and bought one of those giant rubber yoga balls you can sit and stretch on. She replaced her chair with the ball, which was no problem.
Until she started bouncing up and down during class. Not a wild, crazy, out of control bounce, no, just a regular, almost relaxing, up and down and up and down. All class.
Before you knew it, the balls had multiplied! Everyone wanted in on the action. And the class would sometimes look like one of the games at the carnival where you have to hit the popping figurines to secure this ever-evasive prize. As a teacher, it was quite funny to see. The energy and restlessness of the class was on full display every time we stood up to teach.
And as soon as we had a break, most of the students would race outside to play handball for 10-15 minutes. Being a high energy person myself, I joined in—both on the bouncing yoga ball and in the handball games. What can I say? It’s how I’m wired.
And, yes, I too was a challenging child. (Note: my parents used to always say to me that, “We hope you get a son just like yourself.” It happened, and now I know what they mean, because I find myself saying the same thing to my oldest! Isn’t life just grand?)
This class had character. (And a lot of characters!) Their energy, youth, zeal and passion is just what many of our churches need! Yes, that passion must be channeled and tempered, like a mighty and tumbling river which, if managed and steered, can produce great power output with the help of in-river turbines or dams. We need the energy of youth to infuse and saturate our too-often lazy and, gulp, dead churches.
Someone has wisely said that, “Our youth are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today.” To that I say a hearty, Amen!
Providing that energy needs guidance, wisdom, experience, training and encouragement is part of what ARISE is about!