(This column ran in Ollie’s weekly newsletter prior to commitment Sunday.)

More sad news with another deadly shooting spree. This time, in California. Unfortunately, this has become familiar, even ordinary news in our country. We’ll offer a prayer of lament again in worship this Sunday, but my deepest prayer is that needed action will be taken by our elected officials to solve this epidemic of gun violence. 

We need bi-partisan, problem-solving, common-sense, give and take solutions. We have a problem that needs to be fixed. I doubt the solution will come from those in authority. It will likely come from grass-roots, ordinary people like you and me who refuse to accept this violent reality as acceptable.

In addition to gun violence, I’ve been thinking lots recently about the hardships on our teens and young adults. We know very well the opioid epidemic is claiming lives at an unprecedented rate. Add to it the sharp rise in depression and suicide rates of youth and young adults. 

The Atlantic published an article in September of 2017 titled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” I won’t go into the details of how nasty and bullying social media combined with smart phones in nearly every teen’s hand (and most of the day…and night) have caused a real mental health crisis for younger Americans. One teen interviewed in that piece said, “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people this summer. My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”

The research shows that the most positive thing they can do (or be encouraged to do) is put down the phone and interact with real, live people who are physically present with them. Old hang-out spots like the roller rink, the basketball court, the town pool or youth group are getting replaced by virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web.

The result? 

“Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy. Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see friends in person less frequently are the most likely to ‘feel lonely,’ ‘feel left out’ or ‘wish I had more friends.’”

How to move forward and improve mental health and social interactions for our youth? The Atlantic article says, “put down the phone, turn off the laptop and do something--anything--that does not involve a screen.”

Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, thanks to your generous giving, prayerful discernment and hard work, you have called a new Youth and Youth Adult Pastor to live and work with us. Anne Fyffe is already making a difference in our lives and community. As we look ahead to her ministry and the difference for good it will make in teen and young adult lives, we have much reason to live with hope. 

In fact, her ministry is one of the main reasons I’m excited to increase my giving to the work of the church in 2019. 



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