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Kay Warren is an evangelical leader, author, AIDS activist, and co-founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with her husband, Rick, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a[…]

Young people today need heroes, Warren says.

Question: How can we encourage faith in today’s youth?

Warren: I think they need to have heroes that inspire them. I think they need to see the adults and the generation above them . . . Well two things. They need to see the adults and the generation above them as people who are living lives of integrity; people who are living passionately; people who are living beyond themselves, who are not satisfied with trite answers; people who are willing to go there – to enter into any discussion. No topic is off limits, and they see people who actually put their faith into practice. It seems like maybe students or younger generations see their parents’ generation as those who did a lot of talking but not a lot of action. So I think they need to see that happening to inspire them. But I also think that they need to believe that they have something significant to contribute. There’s been a lot of talk in the last, I don’t know, 15 to 20 years about the generations . . . I’m a Gen . . . baby boomer; so the generations coming behind me, there’s been a lot of criticism of them as being people who are very self-absorbed; thinking about their career; thinking about where they’re gonna go in life; materialistic. And I think if they can see themselves as somebody who can make a significant contribution, that really all of these things that we’re dealing with on a world basis – all the things that you’re even bringing up – that if they don’t see themselves as not only part of the solution, but the solution, I think when they get mobilized to that, then they’ll get active. Last week on World AIDS Day, we did not only a global summit on AIDS for just anybody who wanted to come; but on World AIDS Day we did a youth summit. And we had about a thousand students – junior high to college students – gathered at our church, plus 200 churches who simulcasted. So there were several more thousand who were watching by simulcast. There were like 4,000 students on World AIDS Day who were gathered in one place saying, “You know what? We’re gonna take on HIV. We’re not content to let this be something that only our parents’ generation dealt with. We’re not content to just let this be something that takes over and continues to decimate lives. We’re taking a stand. We’re committing to remain HIV-free ourselves. We’re committed to helping other students remain HIV-free. And we’re gonna care for people who are HIV-positive.” The excitement in that place was palpable. You could touch it. You could cut it with a knife. They went out of there so jazzed and so enthusiastic, believing that they had a contribution to make to a significant world problem.

Recorded on: 12/11/07