Baton Pass


Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”  Joel 1:3

Everyone has seen the Olympics. One of the premier track events is the relay where four runners from the same team run the same distance – either 100 or 400 yards or meters.  They must pass the baton to one another.  It involves teamwork.  The pass of the baton is an art in and of itself.  Dropping it means failure. Passing it on safely insures that the team will be competitive and have a chance to win.  Winning a relay is often determined by fractions of a second, and any delay can spell defeat.

The Olympics are replete with stories of dropped batons during the relays. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both the women’s and men’s US relay teams dropped batons resulting in the loss at a chance at medals by two teams that were highly favored to win a medal – if not the gold, then at least the silver. It was a disaster.

Similarly, I’ve been watching a cultural baton drop with our next generation.  I had coffee with Skip Harlicka the other day.  Skip is writing a guide-book on life: Find Yourself- Find Your Fit:  a Lifetime Journey.  His audience is aimed at adolescents, millennials and parents.  His book is due to be released sometime in the spring of 2017.

We had a great conversation on what the next generation want and need, and part of it is critical thinking.  It is a book with questions at the end intended to elicit self-discovery.  The millennials today are lacking critical thinking skills, and this book is an attempt to make them think critically about themselves.

They also need mentors.  Lots of them.  There is a supply demand issue.  The millennials want mentors in their life.  But when they look around, very few of the older generation are raising their hands or offering to come out of the stands as spectators and go to the sidelines to coach. It is a baton drop, and just as in the relay metaphor, it can be a disaster for these future leaders.

It might not end their race, but it will mean that they will finish the race below where they should have.  With a mentor, they might have “medaled” in life, but now are left to do it on their own.  They have no one to help them hone their skills or develop them so that they might achieve their aspirations.

Skip’s book will also talk about the value of a mentor, which resonated with me. His book will cover six areas:  Emotional, Financial, Intellectual, Physical, Social and Spiritual.  We had a great discussion about these topics, and I’ve written on all them in my posts over the past year.  We come from different backgrounds, but have a similar goal which is to help pass the baton to the next generation.

Just think how valuable it would be, if you were an adolescent, to have someone come beside you and help you think about these topics in an interesting way.  As I have said before, it is a lost opportunity if the wisdom of the older generation is not passed on.

I am currently working with two millennials who didn’t have a father in their life – both from an early age.  While I can’t replace their father, I can provide a sounding board that they haven’t had in their lives to this point.

I worry about the next generation.  Cultural shifts have caused an increasing number of them to grow up without a two-parent family.  I don’t need to cite study after study that indicates that a single parent environment is not the best in most cases. Most studies involve discussions of the result of divorce, but an alarming trend is occurring which is the increase in unmarried mothers and its effects on the children.

Current statistics in the US indicate that 40% of all children are born out-of-wedlock today.  That only means the need for mentors in the future will increase, not diminish.  These children will not have role models which are essential to one’s growth.

The challenge here is a clarion call for the older generation to step up and consider mentoring the next generation.  They need to fill in the gap caused by the absence of fathers in this current generation and be role models where none exist.

For the next generation, the challenge here is to go on the offensive. If you want a mentor, don’t stand around waiting for one to tap you on the shoulder and ask if they can invest in your life. Be the aggressor – don’t be afraid to ask, because in most cases, no one has asked them before.  Find someone you admire, and seek their counsel.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   As an old advertising slogan advises, “try it, you’ll like it.”  Step out of your comfort zone and have the satisfaction of investing on someone else.

FURTHER STUDY:  One outcome of single parent families is an increased opportunity to observe domestic violence:

An article on the why single parenting puts children at risk:

WORSHIP: Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin:

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