Often when we hear about young people today the images that are conjured up tend to be negative pertaining to social media addiction, gun and knife crime and so on. Rarely do we relate the young to determination, success or positive religious faith.
One young man counters this portrayal and his story can speak to us about the struggles of young minorities, and the importance of mentorship within our Christian lives.
Reggie Nelson is a young and successful Nigerian business man who travels around speaking and inspiring other young people who are aiming to step into the financial services. The really interesting part of Reggie’s story is how he began his journey. He came up with an unconventional strategy of knocking on the doors of wealthy people and simply asking them how they built up their wealth.
Odd as it may seem, his tactic soon paid off when, after knocking on the door of Quinton Price – head of Alpha Strategies at the BlackRock equity firm – and having a conversation with him, Quinton offered Reggie an internship. From then on, under the mentorship of Quinton, doors opened and opportunities presented themselves before Reggie.
Being the minority in the work place
Reggie has faced and will likely continue to face many obstacles due to his heritage and colour. When Reggie was applying for a permanent position in the firm, he was up against 9,000 other applicants. Out of the 9,000 only 115 got in and three of them, including Reggie, were black. Reggie was also one of the youngest; whereas most of the other people at the firm were undergraduates with A-level results consisting of two to three A*s, Reggie himself was still in college, completely unaware that an A* was even attainable.
Christian faith, mentorship and young minorities
As Christians we can learn a lot from Reggie’s story. Christianity in the West among the newest Generation – Generation Z (born between 1999 and 2015) – seems to be heavily in decline. Research by the Barna group has suggested that Generation Z “are truly the first ‘post-Christian’ generation” to walk among us.
As one of the youth leaders in my church I work a lot with young people, aiming to give them the tools and knowledge they will need as they step out into the real world as vessels for Christ. If there is one thing I have picked up on, it would be that the youth are bubbling with talent but they are too often hindered from nurturing their gifts simply because they are not given guidance on how to channel their talent in a beneficial way.
It becomes even more of a challenge when they are within a minority group. There is for example, one young delightful boy within my church youth group who at his school is subject to regular and extreme racial attacks simply because he is one of the only black boys. He is highly talented at sports but he is unable to explore his gift fully due to the obstacles that he faces at school on a daily basis.
Going back to Reggie’s story, we must also look at the role that Quinton played and what this might mean for us as the older generation.
In May, myself and another youth leader from my church went to the Elim leader’s three-day summit, and if there was one message we picked out from it, it was that the older generation need to give as many opportunities to the younger generation as possible. If not we may lose the young to the world.
Quinton Price realised something similar when he decided to give Reggie a chance. Quinton was able to channel Reggie’s talent in the right direction and he enabled Reggie to effectively navigate through the difficult world of the financial sector. As the older generation, it falls upon our shoulders to nurture the next, especially those who are in the minority and feel that they are blocked by walls ten feet high.
What can we do to help the younger generation?
There are a number of methods we can utilise, especially (but not always) within our churches:
- Do you have any skills you could share with the young people in your church or community?
- If you aren’t already, is there anything going on in your church for young people that you could get involved in?
- Do you work in a particular business or area that a young person might be interested in? Could you mentor a young person in it? Offer them work experience or other help? What about particularly with members of a minority ethnic group?
- Are you willing to embrace that they might make mistakes as they learn? Is that a cost you are willing to take?