He is the coordinator of Praxis, which is an Australian and New Zealand organisation who exist to support people who contribute to the development of young people in their communities. Lloyd has been caring for and has been investing his time into the lives of teenagers for 25 years and he is currently teaching and mentoring a new generation of leaders.
Lloyd opened by asking the delegates to think of one significant adult from our teenage years who had believed in us. As the crowd of Christian media personnel sat and reflected on these significant people in their life, Lloyd shared that where we are today may have been because of those people.
He pointed out that if we are a mostly well-adjusted adult that we would have had up to six of these people evident throughout our youth. An older person, other than a parent, who shows belief and unconditional acceptance for a teen is extremely powerful and the positive impacts are far reaching. Many young people today would struggle to identify even one.
A well-known African proverb says, "It takes a whole village to bring up a child." In our western society without a true village to support and invest in young people, these 6 or so significant adults present in the lives of youth become their 'village'. Their involvement helps build connections to family, school and the wider community.
Lloyd stated that to function effectively in society a young person needs to know they belong; to learn skills and be recognised for those skills; to be independent and responsible; and to be generous. Adults being present, truly present, in the life of a young person are paramount.
In Lloyd's book, Small Stories: reflections on the practice of youth development, published this year, he shares that when young people get into trouble, our response as a society is to try to replace failed connections between youth and caring adults with a network of professionals who are supposed to 'fix' youth. So instead of uncles who take them fishing, grandparents who teach them to drive or sports coaches who push them to believe in themselves, they get a social worker, a court worker and truancy worker.
Lloyd believes that vertical connections are vital. By this he means social connections across generations. From Lloyd's vast experience working with youth, he has seen that in today's young people the vertical connections are lacking and have been taken over by horizontal relationships.
Peers are the only ones many young people will listen to, have any respect for and spend most of their time with. They spend most of their time at school, after hours and on Facebook or Twitter with peers and being influenced by those similar to their own age. Lloyd feels the effect of this is extremely damaging to the individual and society as the vertical and horizontal do battle with each other.
Cure and Care
Lloyd closed his challenging talk by raising the concept of curing or caring for youth. He brought forward the notion that cure without care can be extremely damaging and believes that care should be the basis and precondition for all cure.
Care is choosing to be present in another's situation and connecting with them. The role of care should never be devalued, no matter how professionalised social services is becoming. The genuine care of a significant adult can change the course of a young person's life forever. Lloyd has seen this many times over.
He and his wife Anthea have chosen to be present in the lives of many youth over the years and have even opened their home to many. Jesus met with the broken hearted, the sick, the lonely and the sinful, right where they were.
He didn't provide a quick fix and send them on their way. He cared. He loved. He healed. He gave them time. He cured their hearts.
Lloyd left with us with a challenging thought. "Perhaps instead of wondering what's wrong with all these kids, we should be asking ourselves where are all the adults present in their lives?"
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html