My favorite thing about working with students is . . . well . . . working with students. I love teenagers. I love their honesty, passion, and angst. I think they are fun, and I can’t imagine a life without youth ministry being part of my story.
I know I’m not unique. There’s a good chance you’re reading this article because you love teens as well. So my question to you (me) is: Do we love all teens?
- Do we love the teen who doesn’t love us?
- Do we love the teen who doesn’t come to our events?
- Do we love the teen who compares everything we do to everything the previous youth leader did?
- Do we love the teen with the hover mom who drives us nuts?
- Do we love the teen with no personal space and a fondness for full frontal hugs?
- Do we love the teen who acts like a bully?
- Do we love the teen who is socially awkward?
- Do we love the famous teen who writes raunchy lyrics, twerks with middle-aged men, or has maxed out his boyish charm?
I really do love teenagers, but I’d be lying if I said I loved all teens equally. The truth is, some teens are just easier to love than others. Yet my (our) calling is to love like Jesus loves.
How can we love teens better?
- Ask God to help you love better. We all have baggage. The bad news: sometimes our baggage gets in the way of loving like Jesus loved, because we associate hurt with certain circumstances (or even people). The good news: the spirit of Jesus lives in us, and he can heal us of our hurts, and turn our negative experiences into spaces of redemption for us AND for the challenging teenagers in our lives. Ask God to help you love troubled teens better.
- Pray for the students you find difficult to love. Broken people hurt people, and the sobering part of this truth is that we are broken. Talking to God about the broken teens in our lives draws us back to our calling to love like Jesus.
- Deal with your own brokenness. Find someone to help you unpack your brokenness, because healing frees you up to love well.
- Resist the temptation to talk negatively about students. Plenty are the critics of today’s teenager. Let’s stand together as leaders who shine a positive light on our students and famous students. Complaining, gossiping, or posting snarky comments about any teenager is not our calling (even the twerking ones).
- Read, “Love Does,” by Bob Goff. Just do it!
- Ditch the need to be the coolest ministry in town, and choose to become the most loving. I dig the super creative I-cannot-believe-that-just-happened youth event, and if you throw in a snazzy tee, I’m hooked for life. However, today’s teen needs us to love them well and show them Jesus, not just entertain them. The cool event is simply the catalyst to build relationships and love better.
- Look for opportunities to love. I have a list of students who I know I need to love better. Asking God to help me become more intentional with finding opportunities to love broken students has become my new favorite part of youth ministry.
Loving well is no small task. Love requires guts, risk, creativity, and resolve. So man (or girl) up! Who can you start loving better today?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!