While most girls grow up dreaming about their wedding day, I grew up dreaming about my marriage. I am also thankful for parents who taught me what it was like to love in a marriage relationship, unconditionally. Did they make mistakes? Sure. But they also set an incredible example for me to follow in my marriage relationship with Jason. One thing that is especially important, and probably the biggest thing I have learned after 1 1/3 years of marriage (and still have TONS to learn), is communication.
Communication is probably the hardest thing any adult will face – whether in marriage, parenting, at work, or with friends. People often don’t know what to say or when to say it. People say things without thinking and then kick themselves afterwards for sounding dumb. Worse, some people don’t communicate at all. Communication is an art. It takes time and skill to learn. Communication is vital, not only in marriage, but in youth ministry as well. Let me explain.
Today’s teenagers are bombarded with a crazy amount of information on a constant basis. Facebook and Twitter are discussed most, but what about Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, numerous blogs, etc. The list seems endless, and continually growing. Many teens even struggle with making eye contact in a conversation because they’re so used to looking down at their phones or “off in the distance” as they do with video games, etc. The effects of constant information is heavily debated in today’s culture. Some argue that it is a blessing, because this generation is more connected and able to process information faster. However, it is in some ways a curse, because this generation is also not learning how to communicate for all its worth.
It’s up to us, as parents, leaders, and other influencers in teenagers’ lives, to not allow this to happen. I would argue that this information age is a blessing. It is only a curse if we let it be. We are setting the tone, whether we realize it or not. Do you have a problem having lunch with somebody and not checking your phone? Chances are, your kids are picking up on the fact that you are inseparable from your phone. We need to learn to unplug and engage with people.
Not only are we teaching them by example, but we are teaching them by the way we engage with them personally. If the only way you communicate with your kids or teens in your ministry is through social media or from the platform, then things need to change. Take them out for coffee, or even pull them aside now and again. Have a real conversation with them, look them in the eye, ask intentional questions, and expect in-depth answers. How we communicate with our kids will effect how they will communicate in the real world – in their marriage, in their work place, and with their friends. Lets set a new trend of true and open communication. It could change the world!
Today I want to talk to volunteer leaders, parents, and regular church attendees. Today I stand up for all the youth pastors out there.
My youth pastor told me last year about a box he has. It’s full of letters, cards, objects, and even DVDs. He explained that it this box started out as a small folder in his desk, and ended up exploding into a now large box. I know I have at least 2 things in there that added to this stockpile. Hoarding, you may ask? Nope. This box is simply a collection of things that Dave has saved over the years. Things that serve as an encouragement. A letter of thanks, a speech on his impact, a ball of tape from Four Square (throughout high school I had held onto the first ever ball of tape made from playing Four Square in our youth group – we were hard core about it then! – and gave it to Dave this past Spring, 7 years later I think).
When he told me about this box he had, it didn’t hit me how powerful this box could be. I thought it was neat that he had these things, but it didn’t really apply to Jason or I. However, now that we are almost a year into full-time ministry ourselves, I am beginning to realize just how important are those random notes and objects of encouragement.
Whether you realize it or not, youth pastors get discouraged very easily. They get so caught up in lesson prep, event planning, meeting attending, problem solving, and a whole slew of other things, that they may easily question whether or not they’re actually making an impact in students’ lives. It’s hard to see the micro-impact for all the macro-leading, so to speak. Unfortunately, Satan then uses this to make them question whether or not a given outreach event is even worth it, or if they’re serving any purpose to make a difference whatsoever. You and I both know that this is not the case. Of course they are making an impact and affecting lives! But how are they supposed to know? That is, unless someone tells them.
I started to wonder this week how many youth pastors out there might have an empty box and be running low on the powerful fuel that encouragement gives. Sadly, I think it’s quite a large number. So today I want to encourage you to encourage your fearless leader! This shouldn’t be once a year when you’re asked to at a volunteer banquet, but out of the goodness of your heart. The unexpected means significantly more than you can imagine!
As those involved in youth ministry, “culture” is thrown around constantly. We are always talking about how culture affects our lives as well as the lives our students. We talk about how bad today’s culture is. We even talk about things that are culturally acceptable that shouldn’t be. But I want to talk about creating a new kind of culture. Why do we have to sit back and let the culture dictate our lives? Instead of being victims of today’s culture, let’s work around it and start creating a new kind of culture in our lives. We might not be able to change everything all at once, which would be nice, but we can at least create a new culture for our students. By impacting today’s generation to a different kind of culture, we can start to swing the state of today’s culture even if by a little.
So what exactly do I mean when I talk about a new kind of culture? Well one that is Christ-centered, first and foremost. One thing that I have noticed in our first year of full-time ministry is how little our students seem to know. Maybe it’s because I grew up involved so heavily in the church, or my amazing family, or the Christian education I got through middle school, high school, and college. Whatever the case, many of our students seem clueless when it comes to things of God. This past weekend we had a girls night and a guys night. I got to talk to our girls about our mouths (James 3) and how it relates to being a woman of God. I was appalled when I asked if they knew what Proverbs 31 was, and nobody knew except the student leader with whom I am going through Proverbs 31 verse by verse. It’s things like these that we take for granted. Because we have known things about the Bible for quite some time we tend to think of it as common knowledge, when in reality our students haven’t even heard mention of the idea. Find out what they don’t know – quiz them on simple truths if you have to – and start ingraining the simple principles of a genuine walk with God in their lives! Help them truly know who God is and to truly know His Word.
The other thing I mean by a new kind of culture isn’t really new. It’s not really spiritual either. What I am referring to is knowing classics. This could mean movies (such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). It could mean books (such as the Boxcar Children – which I would love to find a full set to have for our future kids.. and myself!). It could even mean “how things used to be”, such as no cell phones, etc. Our students should be “cultured”. They should know such things that may contain valuable lessons, or simply are good, clean fun. They should know what life used to be like, and let that affect how they live their lives. For instance, maybe they’ll be convicted and use their cell phones or facebook less if they realized how much they use it and the fact that the rest of the world survived without it for thousands of years. Classics are defined as something that withstands the test of time. Let’s create a culture, at least with our students, where such classics are made known and embraced. Educate your students and help them appreciate what they have.
A new culture means a new way of thinking. It won’t come easy and it won’t come fast. If we work together, we can accomplish much, and I’m asking you to work with us in creating this. Many of our students don’t have the kind of culture I explained either at school or at home. That leaves one last place, and that’s with us. While it is not our sole responsibility to raise our students in the knowledge and understanding of God, as well as a correct view of the world we live in, some of it still does fall into our laps. As I have said before, we are the last touch points in our students’ lives before they reach the real world. There is much to be molded, but don’t forget to mold them in this area also. It’s amazing how much a little perspective can change things!