Have you ever thought about what you talk about? When you sit in the stands at a football game? A band competition? Saturday night dinner with friends? Floating in the pool? What do you talk about the most? You might categorize what you talk about into groups like school, children, parents, significant other, friends, latest gossip, money, work, or stresses. I would say all of those could be summed up into one category — fires. Things that are blazingly obvious in your life, leave a stench that bleeds into the other areas of your life, and bring warmth of some kind to your heart, either fond warmth or a blazing hot warmth.

Oftentimes, I feel like we are running from event to event trying to follow the fire of someone else. If we attend this one amazing worship service, go to this special dinner, do that one extra workout, say this one thing to spark someone’s attention, and what ends up happening is we are trying to follow in others' smoke, just hoping it will rub off on us.

Then we pass that mentality on down to our kids. After all, they are following us around and watching what we say and do, and how we spend our time. As they get older, we start to see them trying to follow the crowd to fit in, and it shows up in what they have to have at the store, what they wear, the music they listen to, and even what activities they are a part of weekly. We come together as parents, teachers, coaches, and youth pastors and wonder where it all started. The truth is that we have taught our students to be fire followers instead of fire starters.

John Wesley said, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” Jesus walked about causing people to wonder at how he did things, healed the sick, brought hope, multiplied resources, and calmed the winds and the waves. Due to the signs and wonders of Jesus, it was like a burning fire that people wanted to get close to and be a part of.

We want to be like Jesus, and we want our students to be like Jesus. Starting fires that shine bright everywhere they go and that even leave a lasting scent. It is our job to demonstrate that to the next generation and start fires for God in the hearts of our young people. Let’s be fire starters, not just fire followers.

Caroline Hare is the youth minister at Destin United Methodist Church.