I recently sat in a meeting with several moms from my church’s youth program. The meeting was supposed to be about why we’re not getting better attendance at youth group, but it quickly morphed into a discussion of the terrible pressure our young people feel to perform well in school, in sports, and in every other aspect of their lives.
Now, you can file this in the category of first-world problems (or even upper-middle-class, first-world problems), but it’s a problem nonetheless. As David Elkind has written in The Hurried Child, “The concept of childhood, so vital to the traditional American way of life, is threatened with extinction in the society we have created. Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress–the stress borne of rapid, bewildering social change and constantly rising expectations.”
This is an important issue for those of us in Boy Scouting, both because we care about young people’s well-being and because our program can be quite time consuming. It’s getting harder and harder for college-bound teens to carve out an hour for a Scout meeting or a weekend for a troop campout.
I’m not sure what the answer is–either for Scouting or for my church youth group–but I do know this: We should never forget the sacrifice many Scouts are making to participate in our program, whether that means skipping another activity, not taking an after-school job, or staying up until midnight on Scout night to do homework. It’s incumbent upon us to honor that sacrifice by giving Scouts the best possible program. A poorly planned troop meeting or a pointless campout just doesn’t cut it.
One of the moms in that meeting broke into tears as she described how her high-school son spends four hours every Sunday afternoon doing homework so he can come to youth group in the evening. We’re evidently doing something he feels is worth that sacrifice.