I’ve never felt more passionate about loving students than I do today. This is a call I’ve given a good portion of my life to. There is something that I can’t walk away from when it comes to the transformation of a typical teen into an aware teen. Typical teens will figure out how to get through each day- there may be no victories, no failures, but they’ve mastered the art of getting from one day to the next. An aware teen will take notice of the day. An aware teen will recognize the opportunities that a day brings, even through disappointment. An aware teen doesn’t just get through a day but notices and responds to hurt, anger, kindness, mercy, hope, danger, need, disappointment, victory, failure, self, others, and God. Awareness brings about transformation that allows us to see the hearts of teens shaped by God.
So, how can we participate in the transformation of teens?
1. PRAY for students by name.
This may sound cheesy, but I think it all the time to myself, “never underestimate the power of a single prayer.” We cannot stand on two feet and watch as teen culture swallows the teens we interact with. Let your compassion for teens force you to your knees in prayer. Years ago many of the teens in a group I was leading were struggling with the use of drugs. I worried, I had meetings, I confronted them then I prayed. I should have started with prayer. I remember printing their first names in huge font, cutting them out, and taping them all over my office walls. I would get on my knees and pray for each of them by name. One by one these students became “aware of their problem” and “aware of their need for help.” That was an answer to prayer. Plan your lessons, go on trips, go to games, but for goodness sakes, pray for teens by name.
2. SERVE their needs.
Being a good and memorable youth leader can be easily accomplished. But witnessing the transforming power of the love of God in your students requires more than facilitating logistics and creating memories. We are called to discover and serve the needs of students. I used to buzz on the success of smiling, laughing, participating groups of teens. There was a mountain top experience with every well-planned youth trip. But then something happened. My youth leaders and I started talking to individual teens. We had a hit list. We listed students by name and assigned them to a leader. Their names were not scratched off the list until an adult had one on one time with them to gauge their needs and how we could serve them. We did this over and over again. Soon our team was sharing the needs of each student; needs we had been completely oblivious to. I guess we figured if they had a need they knew they could come talk to us, we were making them take the initiative. Once we learned to take the initiative, and began discovering the needs of each individual students, then we could serve with new meaning and purpose. We found over and over again, that with in our happy group of students existed depression, abandonment, hurt over divorce, worry over finances, uncertainty about the future, sexually addiction, and more. We now knew how we could serve. If a family needed a car, we knew about it. If a student needed counseling we knew about it. If a student needed affirmation, we knew about it, and we started to serve our teens.
3. INFLUENCE by modeling godly lifestyle and character.
Nothing is more powerful than the godly influence a loving adult can have on a teen. We must take inventory on what kind of influence we have and what kind of influence the members of our team have. What is on display, patience, kindness, love, grace, balance, health, generosity, and honesty? Or bitterness, frustration, tiredness, chaos, and dishonesty? Teens won’t walk away from an imperfect leaders, but they will be influenced either way. The life you model for your students will be the biggest lesson they retain. They will forget all about your presentation during summer retreat, but they won’t forget that you were kind, patient, or forgiving.
How will you participate in the transformation of teens today, through prayer, service, influence, or all of the above?