Have you seen that episode of Full House where Michelle is in the first grade and her best friend Teddy has to move to Amarillo, TX due to his father getting a new job? Michelle and Teddy were used to sharing their lunches, finishing each other’s printing homework, sitting next to each other all day and had such a deep friendship – so much so that when Teddy left, Michelle gave him her beloved pink pig, Pinky, (a present previously from uncle Jesse) and Teddy gave Michelle his favorite stuffed animal, Sparky, the dog.
At that point, while watching this episode with my own kids, Lucy (age 5) and Nate (age 6), both started bawling. Real. Sad. Tears. I thought something was terrifying wrong. What tragedy just happened?!?! But they choked out through their tears that it was just “so sad that Michelle lost Teddy.” Sigh.
The young people we all work with want so much to have Jesus be their “Teddy.” They have such a strong desire to know how to love like that and how to experience that depth of emotion for another person. As youth ministers, we are to bring them to that place. Is that an unbelievable task? Yes, it is 100% unreasonable. We are only human youth ministers after all. Right!? Wrong. We were created by God to lead His young church TO HIM. Just how do we do that? This is what my experience tells me.
If we don’t love Jesus like Michelle loved Teddy, we can’t lead others to that devotion. We have to self-assess our hearts and make sure we are authentic disciples.
We have to be honest
Recently, I shared with my young people about my husband and I’s recent miscarriages and how that affected our faith- it was hard, it still is hard and we are trying to look for hope each day. Young people need to know the valleys as well as the mountain top experiences of those that are leading them–their beloved youth ministers. They need to know there is hope when their valleys happen. Because they will happen and they will need to turn somewhere–let’s encourage them to turn back to their best friend, Jesus Christ.
We need to let them see us praise Him
When life is full of rainbows and butterflies, we have to let them see us praise God for those blessings. Genuine joy is what our youth are looking for and we have been CHOSEN to show that to them. How blessed is our call as youth ministers.
Practically, these are the key aspects of our time spent with our young people. Yes- we use Scripture, programming and other great tools to bring the youth deeper into discipleship with Jesus Christ. But the secret to successful time with young people is authentic discipleship moments. It takes discerning, prayer and trust that God is leading you where the youth need you to go.
At the end of the Full House episode, Michelle does get a “new best friend” but we all know that Denise isn’t Teddy. Friends – let’s vow to help the young people, entrusted to us by our Heavenly Father, learn how to fall in love with the friendship that Jesus offers us. Without His friendship, there is no hope, no love and no faith that good will overcome evil. Now, more than ever, our young people need all three of those virtues.