rebelling against low expectations

5 Ways Every Teen Can Make a Difference Today

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Editor’s Note: Recently, a young lady named Kat sent us this question. We loved her question and passion for Christ so much that Sara, our lead editor, wrote an article in response. We hope Kat’s story and the ideas listed below inspire you to do hard things and change the world around you!


I first found out about the Rebelution when my mom gave my brother a book called “Do Hard Things.” It looked interesting, so I began to read it. What I read simply added to a fire that has been growing inside me for a while.

A few months ago, my parents started getting the Sunday edition of The Washington Post. At first, the only thing that interested me was the comics. However, I decided one day to pick it up and read an actual article or two.

The article was on starvation in another country, about children my age who couldn’t walk or talk because of malnutrition. About families who fed the stronger children first, not last, because they could complain.

I immediately started sobbing. Just like that. Crying because I didn’t think I could do anything about it. Crying because all of this cruelty and injustice I didn’t believe I could change.

I read more articles in more newspaper editions. Every week. Despite all the pain and sorrow, I couldn’t pull away. I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know the things happening in this world.

I asked my mom, “What can I do about this? How can I help?” She told me to pray. Yes, I’m going to pray. I’ve been praying, but what else can I do? I truly feel God is telling me I need to do something, but what?

Many people think teenagers aren’t capable of doing anything important. Something to change the world. I want to show that I can, but even more, I want to reach out to those who need help and the word of God. The only problem is: What? What can I do?

-Kat, 14 years old

Dear Kat,

First, thank you for your passion to do hard things and make a difference. Many people see pain and injustice, but harden their hearts and walk on by. Changing the world starts by letting ourselves be changed and moved to action.

Secondly, you’re not alone. I relate to your question, “What can I do?” and I know every other Rebelutionary can too. I’ve seen evil and brokenness in the world and felt powerless to change anything. I’ve wondered if we—young, inexperienced, teenagers—could possibly make a difference.

The good news is yes. Yes, we can.

And not only can we make a difference, we must make a difference and we do make a difference.

Yes, Kat. You make a difference.

There are so many things we can do—some ordinary, everyday things, some extraordinary, out-of-this-world, only-by-the-power-of-God things.

I don’t know exactly what God is calling you to do, but here are five things to get you thinking. Some are big, some are small. It doesn’t matter if it looks grand or impressive. It just matters that we’re faithful and obedient.

1. Use your influence (spread the word)

We all have a sphere of influence. Whether we’re a homeschooler or go to public school. Whether we have a dozen siblings or are on only child. Whether we have a schedule jam-packed with activities or spend most of our days at home, we each have influence.

Start by spreading the word and sharing what you’ve learned with others. It moved you—maybe it will move them. Whether it’s a passion to feed starving children in other countries, a desire to see abortion ended, or a soul-deep fervency to free captives of modern day slavery,

God has lit a fire in your heart. Don’t ignore it. Share it.

Tell your parents and siblings. Share what you’ve learned with your neighbors. Tell your classmates or co-workers. Spread the word to your peers at youth group. Tell your best friend or even that girl that’s unpopular. Post about it on social media. Write articles for a blog or website. Let them know how it affected you and how you want to make a difference.

You don’t have to speak to an auditorium filled with thousands in order to make a difference. Start with one.

2. Support Organizations on the Front Lines (raise money)

There are incredible organizations currently fighting on the front lines of battles like starvation, human trafficking, abortion, and many other things.

In order to keep working, these organizations are reliant on donations from people like us. One of the best ways we can support them is by raising money. And yes, there are lots more ways to raise money than just a bake sale—though bake sales do actually work. I once organized a bake sale to raise money for The International Justice Mission—and sold out before the day was through!

Pick an organization close to your heart and throw a fundraiser for it. It can be simple, like a bake sale or craft show, or bigger like holding a concert, play, or dinner where all the proceeds go to the organization. Be creative! Austin Gutwein raised millions by holding basketball free throw events. There are so many ways to raise money that are fun and creative, but mostly impactful.

3. Volunteer (start in your own hometown)

Maybe you have a dream to feed starving children overseas, but you feel stuck in your own small town. Yet there are needs in our own cities and neighborhoods and there are usually organizations working to meet those needs (and if not, maybe you should start one!).

Find your local homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen and volunteer there. Or take one day a week to help out at a local pregnancy center or pray outside an abortion clinic. I regularly do Bible studies and pray with the female inmates at our local jail.

If you really want to go big, many organizations accept applications for interns where you could join a team and get hands-on experience. Or they have programs where you can become an official advocate and representative for the organization. Do the research and see what’s available. There are also dozens of opportunities for short-term mission trips, some as short as a week or as long as several months.

4. Pray hard (keep Jesus first)

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Yes, work, fight, raise money, and volunteer, but don’t do any of it prayerlessly.

As Rebelutionaries, we often focus on what we can do. How we can do hard things. The difference we can make.

But we actually can’t do any of it.

Only God can. He’ll use us, but He’s ultimately the One accomplishing it. Paul talked about this when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7)

In order to make any kind of lasting difference, we need to be a generation on our knees. We need to cry out to God to move and work and draw others nearer Himself. We need to pray He shows us what to do and how to do it and blesses and multiples the work of our hands.

And as we work, we need to keep our focus on Him. If we focus on our adequacy or inadequacy we’ll get discouraged or proud. But if we focus on God and His adequacy, we’ll keep the right attitude and be infinitely more effective.

Jim Elliot once said, “Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to serve such an extraordinary God.”

We’re ordinary.

But we have an extraordinary God. Never underestimate what He can do through ordinary people working hard and praying hard.

It’s time to rise up, teenagers. But it’s also time to fall on our faces and cry out to God.It’s time to rise up, teenagers. But it’s also time to fall on our faces and cry out to God. Click To Tweet

5. Start small, but dream big (the story isn’t over yet)

I know you want to make a big difference, Kat. We all do. We see how big the problems are and we ache for change. It can be so frustrating to feel we’re not even making a dent.

I want to challenge you to not be ashamed of starting small. Every great tree grew from a little seed. Every big difference started with a small act of faithfulness.

Today, you might not be able to go on a trip to another country . . . but maybe one day you can. So today, be a missionary to your own community.

Today, you might not be able to raise ten thousand dollars . . . but maybe one day you can. So today, start with the ten dollars you have.

Today, you might not be able to speak to a jam-packed auditorium of thousands . . . but maybe one day you can. So today, speak to your friend at school or youth group.

You may be surprised. As you’re faithful to do the hard things of today, the hard things of one day often come a lot sooner than we anticipate.

My pastor sometimes says, “Just be faithful . . . faithful . . . faithful . . . and God will make you fruitful.”

Our aim is fruitfulness, but doing hard things is all about faithfulness. We’re called to work hard, pray hard, and live all-out for God. In every season, in every action, no matter how big or small.Our aim is fruitfulness, but doing hard things is all about faithfulness. We’re called to work hard, pray hard, and live all-out for God. In every season, in every action, no matter how big or small. Click To Tweet

Don’t ever believe the big things, the hard things, the out-of-this-world, only-by-the-power-of-God things are impossible or that you’re too young. Like the famous quote from William Wilberforce and the movie Amazing Grace, “We are too young to realize that certain things are impossible . . . so we will do them anyway.”

Kat, you can make a difference. With the power of God, a passion in your heart, and a commitment to keep on no matter how tough it is, you can make a difference and be a light in this world of darkness.

And it all starts with doing the next hard thing today.


How would you have answered Kat’s question? What would you add to this? Let us know in the comments!


About the author

Sara Barratt

is an 19-year-old speaker and author. Her first book releases from Baker Books in Spring 2020. Along with her work on The Rebelution, she also contributes to websites like The Gospel Coalition and Girl Defined. Connect with her on her website sarabarratt.com

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →

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