Do you remember the viral video from a few years ago about a beatbox battle between a daughter and her dad? Watch it once or twice and find yourself in awe of their mad skills.
Now watch it once more, but this time pay close attention to the dad’s reaction to his daughter’s virtuosity. The entire time the daughter is spittin’ and mixin’ and droppin’ beats, her dad is grooving along, smiling, giggling to himself, and beaming with pride. I’m impressed by both of their beatbox abilities, but I’m most impacted watching the sheer bliss on the dad’s face as he smiles with a big, toothy grin while savoring his daughter’s skills.
Something incredibly powerful happens when a student receives the approval of a significant adult in their life. Humans are hard-wired to need relationships, attention, and encouragement. The awesome and alarming aspect of student ministry is that we may be the only adult a student hears speaking words of life. When we lead out of our unresolved brokenness, we withhold affirmation for others because we need it for our own self-actualization. When we lead out of our Jesus-redeemed brokenness, we give affirmation and encouragement with the same lavish excess that God gives it to us.
What does this look like? It means we say things to our students like:
- I love watching you play soccer. (Instead of, “Congratulations on the big win.”)
- I’m so proud of the way you treat the middle schoolers. You’re a good leader.
- I love listening to you play music. (Instead of, “Keep practicing and you’ll be really good.”)
- I love to hear you laugh.
- I’m always excited when I see you do the things you love. (Instead of, “I love when you do your best.”)
So many of the words people hear are negative. Be a positive voice in the lives of students, finding joy in the things that bring them joy, celebrating the times they take a risk and strive for excellence, and cheering wildly for them even when they don’t finish in first place.
Just in case you were wondering, Jesus loves watching you love on your students. In the same way that dad watched his daughter crush the rhythms with her beatbox, your Father delights in watching you shine. So don’t grow weary of doing good; because you make God smile with a proud, toothy grin.