Zach Hunter is fifteen. He’s fifteen and he’s written a book about the abolition of slavery for teens. Those two facts are impressive enough for just about anyone. But Hunter is quick to point out that he is just a normal teenager who has a passion for change and his passion is directed toward the injustices of the international slave trade. His book, Be the Change, is one of several projects that he has taken on to live out his passion.
This book isn’t going to change your ministry in a traditional sense. It isn’t going to tell you how to bring more kids into your weekly gatherings. It isn’t going to revolutionize your ministry leadership team. But there is power in the earthiness that Hunter seizes in his book. He embraces his teenage life and speaks to his peers as equals. He isn’t condescending. He isn’t frou-frou-ey. He is true to the realities of slavery and the power that each young person has to change the lives of others.
Change can be difficult for adults. We psychologically thrive on the idea that things will be the same. We take comfort in our life patterns and habits. We don’t like to change. But adolescents are different. They haven’t been around long enough to have deep ruts in their habits. They are still looking for their life rhythm and they are still exploring what passionately burns their heart to make their hands and feet move. Hunter’s book embodies the adolescent search for passion and explores where he has found great meaning in the work of the Kingdom. Teens will identify with his voice much more than if this same book was written by an adult.
Hunter aims at his teen audience and fires story upon story about people who were passionate throughout history about the freeing of slaves. He tells the story of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. (Did you see Amazing Grace, the movie? If not, you may want to check it out. Hunter’s book and abolition groups The Amazing Change and Loose Change to Loosen Chains are connected with the film. Besides that connection, it is a great story of a Christian man’s fight against slavery in England. It is totally appropriate for teens and great for discussion.) He tells stories of fierce determination in and outside the abolition movement. He wants the young reader to see that each person who has had a hand in changing the world started as a young teenager with a passion. Hunter is fair with his readers and acknowledges that slavery might not be the wood in their fire. But he doesn’t let them off from being the change. He is clear that we are each called by God to serve His people.
The book is simply written with short chapters that end with a series of discussion questions. While a teen could read it on their own, I imagine that the benefits would be maximized when the reading was framed with discussion with other teens and adults. In a world where everyone has a social justice cause, the church has to stand up and answer the call to action. You might consider using Hunter’s book as a fire builder in your youth ministry. If social justice is on your youth ministry radar (as it well should be!), Be the Change is a great tool to use with your youth.