Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 7, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

PeaceBuilders – not a moment too soon

By Pastor Bill Baldwin, Ev. United Church of Christ, Lester Prairie

It’s not easy being a teenager these days; maybe it never has been. We are blessed with so much in this country, yet there are pressures facing our youth that threaten their health, their sanity, and their very lives.

Everyone wants to help, but no one knows what to do. Our schools are already pressed to the limits trying to teach the basics with ever-decreasing resources. Most churches would love to help, but they are struggling to keep even their most faithful members active and connected.

We are connected to the entire planet instantaneously through satellite TV and the Internet, yet with all the instant information we have, we don’t know how to help our kids. Is there any answer to the problems that seem so pervasive and resistant to resolution?

PeaceBuilders is a group for young people designed to be a specific answer to the challenges facing our youth. It fills a niche not being covered by any other group out there, right now.

While aimed at elementary age students, PeaceBuilders seeks to equip our kids with a knowledge set that will serve them well throughout high school and into adulthood.

This is not a church school, Sunday school, or religiously-based curriculum in any way other than promoting respect for all people, non-violent conflict resolution, appreciation for the world in which we live, and ways to live together in community.

PeaceBuilders meets Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Lester Prairie Elementary school, and is open to students from any school or community. A typical meeting would include a peace-themed lesson supported with music, crafts, and activities.

Sonja Johnson and Carol Dietel are leading the weekly classes, using curriculum from a variety of sources. Feel free to call Sonja at (320) 395-2922 with questions you have about the program.

The respectful approach to living that is taught in class is also modeled in the classroom. Children are taught ways to resolve conflicts wherever they arise without resorting to violence, bullying, or name-calling.

This is actually the second season for PeaceBuilders, having started at Prairie Community Church (Evangelical United Church of Christ) last year in response to a perceived need in the community.

The church recently received a $750 grant from the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ to help launch the program more successfully this year. The grant was designed to help local churches connect with perceived needs in the community, regardless of their affiliation or non-affiliation with any church.

Teens from any school are welcome to help lead classroom activities. Johnson and Dietel believe that having our younger students experience a healthy connection with teens will be good for both age groups.

What possible difference could PeaceBuilders make? The potential impact is difficult to estimate.

What if even a few kids escaped being teased or bullied because a potential bully learned not only self-respect, but also better ways of getting his or her needs met?

What if a few kids avoided fights leading to injuries or expulsions because they learned ways to negotiate conflict non-violently?

What if a few handfuls of kids at high risk for alcohol or drug abuse, or pregnancy, stayed out of trouble because they learned that they are valuable beyond measure?

What about students who may have been filled with rage and who lacked healthy ways to express it? We sure don’t need any more Columbines, Cold Springs, or Red Lake’s, do we?

PeaceBuilders is mostly just good, solid reminders about treating people the way they want to be treated. Have you ever really thought about that? If you are like most people, you want to be treated with respect, cared about, listened to, helped, protected, and appreciated for your uniqueness, just as you are.

So, let’s rally around this program and get all our kids there on a weekly basis. We need lots of adult support and help with the program. You know all the “it takes a village to raise a child” kind of sayings, and they are very true.

If you are a retired person reading this, you have infinite gifts to offer our young people. Give Sonja a call and ask how you can help. Whatever you have and can give to the program is both needed and appreciated.

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