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A 'Better Hour' for Your Teen

Courtesy of BreakPoint Online
with Charles Colson

CBN.comResearch shows that teenage boys spend on average around 58 minutes a day playing video games. Girls were only slightly behind at 44 minutes a day. USA Today reports that teens spend about 16 percent of their time each day surfing the Internet or e-mailing. And then there is television, that omnipresent invader of our lives.

Could there be a better way to spend an hour than television-watching, Web-surfing, or gaming? Eighteenth-century English poet William Cowper thought so.

Cowper lived in a time as degenerate and self-indulgent as our own. Poverty, violence, prostitution, murder, thievery, and general lawlessness flourished. The wealthy benefited greatly from the horrid slave trade in which Britain owned more than half the slave ships. Gambling was a national obsession; obscene literature sold well; executions known as Hanging Shows attracted huge crowds.

But in the midst of this, a small group of men and women living in and around Clapham, a suburb of London, England, decided to do something about the situation. As the movie Amazing Grace (now available on DVD) so brilliantly captures, this little group was ultimately able to reform England by calling the British to what William Cowper referred to as "the better hour." The group, often called the Clapham Sect or the Clapham Circle, began to meet in each others' homes to discuss what needed to be done and to take action to accomplish what they planned.

Today, teens like Zach Hunter are following in the footsteps of Wilberforce and his Clapham Circle by speaking out against human trafficking in our day. Hunter, who is the tenth-grade author of Be the Change, founded the group "Loose Change to Loosen Chains." As its name implies, the group encourages gathering loose change to put toward the cause of stopping human trafficking around the world. Zach is the spokesperson for The Amazing Change campaign, also sponsored by the movie Amazing Grace, as well as a new contest that your teenage son or daughter should not miss.

The Better Hour Contest for high-school students seeks to engage teens in service projects that reflect the concerns of William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who fought to end the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and helped launch 69 societies for the reformation of culture in early nineteenth-century England.

With funding from the John Templeton Foundation, this contest offers a $10,000 first prize and up to $40,000 in total prizes for the best essay about what students have done. Students can use any ongoing project as long as they register and submit according to the contest guidelines, or they can embark on something entirely new. But they need to register now for the Better Hour Contest in time to execute their idea and meet the final project deadline of March 1, 2008. Awards will be presented in U.S. Congress in May 2008. Visit for more information.

I cannot think of a better way students could spend an hour than by engaging in the causes so near to the heart of William Wilberforce and his Clapham Circle. So pick up a copy of the new DVD Amazing Grace, watch it with the teenagers in your life, and then encourage them to enter the Better Hour Contest. One hour like this might encourage a lifetime of better hours serving others.

From BreakPoint, Copyright 2007 Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500." Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their web site at

This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.

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