The Willingness to Risk

Greg Jarrell is Chief Door Answerer at QC Family Tree, a community of rooted discipleship in Charlotte, NC.  Greg shares life there with a host of neighbors who have become family, as well as his wife, Helms, and their two sons.  

One of the natural gifts God has given youth is the willingness to risk. We often hear about how teens and young adults engage in risky behavior, but generally we only think of that in terms of negative actions – inappropriate sexual activities, bad driving habits, experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Rarely do we consider that the riskiness that is common to adolescence is part of their giftedness from God. Our young people are willing to engage in risky behavior. Good youth ministry capitalizes on this natural gift by helping young people to use it to improve their own lives and the lives of their communities.

My youth ministry context is in a community development ministry in an historically oppressed side of Charlotte. Many of our young people grow up “on the streets,” which means that they stand in a particularly difficult place in our society, where they are underserved by the institutions that most kids encounter. But they also have a unique perspective on what will make a difference in their communities.

We see this made manifest in many ways. For instance, when a few young people complained for lack of money, we were able to pool a few resources to start an entrepreneurial project. By working together, our youth were able to make bold decisions about how to start a company and how to keep it going, knowing that the resources we were pooling could be lost. This required sacrificing after school hours and weekend mornings. Two years later, we have created a sustainable coffee business that has led to hundreds of hours of work opportunity for our youth and young adults.

By being willing to risk a lot of time, a little money, and to jump into a project where none of us knew what we were doing, we have created one more small space for justice and for building community. That space may yet fail as a business. Keeping it going has not been easy all the time. But by the willingness of our young people to risk failing at a project has created a small victory for doing what we think is our prophetic vocation in the world – imagining new spaces for repairing the breach, for building justice and love and opportunity among the disinherited of our society.