I met Stuart Hall about 13 years ago, when he spoke at a student winter camp. Not only do I really enjoy hearing him speak and teach, he has become like a mentor to me from afar. He has a huge passion for empowering students, and as he explained the impact of 2020 on high schoolers, he also shared the enormous potential they have in the middle of it.

Here are my notes from his breakout workshop:

  • Navy has a saying when in a storm: Hold fast and stay true.
  • High schoolers were already struggling, and then a pandemic hit.
  • Here are just a few things they are anxious about:
    • Social isolation
    • Digital learning
    • Financial stability
    • Future uncertainty
    • Illness
    • Divorce
    • Racism
    • Election
  • We are seeing they will often ignore conventional wisdom in order to just be together.
  • Don’t let the social climate to distract us from the quieter crisis of adolescents that is still happening:
    • Mental and physical
    • Relational
    • Cultural
  • How it’s affecting different age groups:
    • Freshmen are asking: Where do I belong?
      • It is difficult to determine where you belong when school and church is virtual.
    • Sophomores are asking: Why should I believe this? Why can’t I?”
      • It is difficult to flex your freedom when many freedoms have been taken away from you.
    • Seniors are asking: What will I do?
      • It is difficult to think about the future when the future is so uncertain.
    • Juniors are asking: How can I matter?
      • The one phase that might fit this phase is junior year.
      • Making a difference may be more doable than ever.
  • We can help high schoolers see the opportunities rather than the danger. 
    • Example of students who organized a peaceful protest for George Floyd.
  • Pay close attention to the significant way the current global crisis is stripping away the relational network that is so important for teenagers.
  • Crisis is not new and will always be a necessary part of growing up. In other words, tension can cause us to grow.
    • Crisis creates a platform to discover who we are.
    • Relationships create a safe place to resolve who we are.
    • The buffer in every crisis is love.
    • “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6 NLT)
  • The only thing that will count during this crisis is my faith expressing itself through love!
  • What to do:
    • Resource parents
      • Parents need resources more than ever.
    • Serve volunteers 
      • The younger your volunteers, the more they have been impacted by this crisis.
    • Schedule availability
      • Get creative with meeting with students, so it’s not just one more Zoom call for them.
    • Solve problems
      • Find out what the problems are by simply asking community organizations, families, etc.
  • Chinese symbol for crisis contains 2 words:
    • Danger & Opportunity
    • Which one will you pursue?

During his question and answer time, Stuart also shared that gifts + passion = purpose. We need to help students figure out their gifts and passions are, and then help them connect them. The crucial time to help students do this is during their junior year, since they many of them are already asking how they matter.

How are you helping high schoolers navigate this year with the pandemic, political tension, racial tension, and everything else?

Stuart serves as the Director of Student Leadership for Orange, provides vision and leadership for INFLUNSR and CAPTNS, and speaks to thousands of students, leaders, coaches and parents each year. He has authored three books and hopes to author one or two more. Stuart laughs incessantly, serves as a volunteer high school varsity girls’ basketball coach, relishes being dad to three young adult children, and loves his wife, Kellee, with every fiber of his being.

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