Saint, Dr. Peter Benson

“To dream what is possible and to put oneself in service of that dream is the formula for a life well-lived.”
                                           – Peter Lorimer Benson, Ph.D. (May 2, 1946 – October 2, 2011)

The loss of Steve Jobs in October was deeply felt, discussed and reflected upon among a wide range of people.  Did you know that the world lost another great visionary in October?  Dr. Peter Benson, President and CEO of the Search Institute died October 2 after a year-long battle with cancer.  Dr. Benson had a dream and he lived that dream.  Dr. Benson’s work to help children and youth succeed and thrive; and to develop the 40 Developmental Assets framework have influenced schools, churches and communities and youth-focused organizations all around the world more than any other.

At the beginning of my professional ministry I was introduced to the 40 Developmental Assets – those things that young people need to succeed physically, emotionally and spiritually.  What impressed me most was that this framework was research-based and focused on building up kids and helping them succeed proactively.  It isn’t about reacting and trying to fix problems after kids made poor choices.  It’s about supporting them so they will be able to make good choices and thrive.  The more assets young people have, the less likely they will engage in risky behavior.

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Benson as the keynote speaker at conferences and attend breakout workshops he led.   His energy, passion and love for kids were infectious.  He made it clear that it was not just the responsibility of parents and teachers to support kids – it is every single adult’s responsibility.  We can all make a difference for each and every young person we encounter on the street, in a park, next door, bagging our groceries…everywhere we go.  He was funny and authentic in a, “I’m just a goofy, nerd scientist who loves kids” way that drew people of all ages to him like a magnet.  He would tell young people that he knew he wasn’t “cool” but that he cared about them and knew they could be something special.

Dr. Benson is the reason I have a passion for children and youth.  He’s the reason I know the children on my street, even though my own children are grown.  He’s the reason I talk to the young person bagging my groceries, serving me or walking past on the sidewalk.  He’s the reason I try to make sure that our missional community activities have asset-building components built in.   He’s the reason I try to support parents and caregivers as they raise healthy children. He’s the reason I believe every young person needs multiple mentors in their lives. The average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets, so it’s our job to help them bulk up!

I thank God for Dr. Peter Benson and for all the people he inspired to help discover what kids need to succeed.   Thanks for letting me ramble on about one of my heroes – indeed, one of my saints.

Dear God, help us to build up, affirm and encourage every child and young person we encounter.  Each one is created in your image and is a reflection of your love.   In doing so, we join you in creating your Kingdom here and now.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

PS: I can’t even begin to tell you all about Dr. Benson that deserves to be said.  So, if you want to be inspired, if you want to know how to make a difference in a child’s life and feel good, here are a bunch of links.  Benson’s work was based on the positives, not the negatives and everything you read about him and his work will leave you feeling very positive.

Read more about Peter Benson at these note-worthy links:

If you want to learn more about the Dr. Benson’s work to improve the lives of children and young people, go here: and here:

And, if you want to read a short inspirational book on vision by Benson, get Vision: Awakening Your Potential to Create a Better World get it here: B

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