Caleb Smith, 17, is a big guy. Not just because of his 6-foot-6-inch frame, but because of his faith, involvement and attitude.
Smith is a junior at Pikes Peak Christian School in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a member of the Tri-Lakes Church of Christ in the nearby city of Monument. At school he plays basketball, football and is on the track team.
A favorite hobby is performing in school plays and musicals. Last year he received the Soaring Eagle Award at school for exhibiting Christian qualities.
At church he is an active member of the youth group, preaches on Youth Sunday and participates in Bible bowls, food drives and serve-a-thons.
“I accept it when I am called dorky,” he said. “Without dorks, life wouldn’t be so interesting.”
Smith lives with his parents, Greg and Trish. His two brothers, Jacob, 24, and Cole, 22, tagged him with the nickname “Moose.”
What things in life are most important to your friends?
It seems these days that everything matters in the moment.
It’s always a new fad, a new hair style, new clothes … whatever is “chill” as some teens say (or “funky,” from the lingo of my father).
This also applies to the youthful generation today. Everything is taken to the extreme, and what is defined as most important seems in retrospect to be trivial.
One of the biggest worries of many teens today is being accepted. They believe that the most important thing in high school — or even in life — is to be accepted.
We all need to know that the one person who understands acceptance most is God. No clique or gang can change that, even if they are the “hippest.”
What do your non-Christian friends think about Christians?
Many times non-Christians aren’t too fond of discussing our beliefs and actions in the Christian faith. They think we are prisoners. In a sense, that is true, but we will be the happiest prisoners ever seen when we redeem our promise from the Redeemer.
Because of our differing views, it is sometimes extremely difficult to talk with them about Christianity. There isn’t only a fear of judgment but also the fear of losing that person as a friend. This makes it even more important to trust in God. They think we could be pushing or even forcing truths on them.
Even though discussing God can result in bickering and ridicule sometimes, there is always a common ground. All we have to do is find it.
What life experiences most get the attention of your peers?
Loss. It can be one of the most impacting experiences in life. It can be so crushing when a loved one or thing is gone. Eyes can be opened, and even beauty can be found in the rubble of what was.
Through a loss, young people can find the benefit in opening their eyes and listening. Of course it will hurt for a while, but God’s plan can be shown even in devastation.
Many teens don’t really want to get involved in something unless it directly involves them. It almost seems that it takes something monumental to influence some teens.
Do you know teens that have left the Church of Christ? Why and where did they go?
It is very heartbreaking when teenagers leave the church. They often are scared, bored, lost or can’t find something they are looking for in life.
One of my own personal friends is struggling with staying in the church. There was a loss of interest, and he states that he has more important things to worry about.
It is so important to keep our youth in the faith. They will lead the future. There is no family that can comfort and console a person like the family of God. God will never leave them, and, as family, neither should we.
How can we hold on to Christian teens and keep them from leaving the church?
Because we are in the “now” age, the same old routine can tire teens. They are looking for a modern and personal church.
There are so many things that teens struggle with that can make them prioritize rashly. It is comforting when members of the church can relate to what you are going through. They can say “I understand” or “I’ve been there.”
When members of the church relate to a situation, the opportunity for keeping youth is increased immensely. Relating to teens can assist in keeping the sheep in the flock.
What kinds of sermons and music most speak to you?
I find it much more than coincidence when a lesson or a song in church corresponds directly to an issue in my life. If I feel confused or lost, we could be singing “Jesus Gently Lead Me Home,” a minute after thinking that. If I feel in the dark or alone, the next song could be “Heavenly Sunlight.” You can even see some of God’s humor after feeling shallow and then singing “There’s a Sea.”
There are times when the sermon or the singing states something that represents exactly what I needed to hear. When these kind of things happen, I am reassured that there is purpose for everything. The lessons that speak to me loudest are the ones that seem made for me.
What would you like to say to the older generations?
We have been ridiculously blessed with life here on earth. God has been there since day one, because he created day one. He has inspired many and loved all.
Without the guidance and understanding of some of the past generations, the situation may be different for our church and family. Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding …”) gives us a marvelous lifestyle. We can’t know everything, and God takes care of the rest.
We’ve also been blessed by the older generations of the church — from the “Pac-Man” era to the “Halo” era — and thanks are due to God.
It is a different world than what you grew up in, and we aren’t out to change everything. We are trying to find our own way to relate in today’s world. Be patient with us, and we love you!