“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:12)
So far we have dealt with boldness and context. Boldness being a necessary step in the endeavor of youth ministry, and is dependent on the working of the Holy Spirit. Then an understanding of context gives us vision for whom we are reaching and how we are to go about it. Meeting specific needs in a community makes sparks, bonding groups together and models servant ministry. As a group begins to form, our greatest obstacle is often our own “self”. Understanding our own growth as a young person is critical in ministry to youth today, and lets explore why.
Either read this, or have someone read this to you while you close your eyes, this will aid the memory:
Take a moment and imagine yourself as an adolescent, about the age of 13, perhaps 14 years old. You wake up in your bed and look around. What do you see? What color are the walls? Is there a window? Are they decorated with posters? Artwork? Is anyone else there? School is starting soon. What kind of clothes did you like and how do you wear them? Are you trying to have a certain look? You walk through your house grabbing what you need. Who do you talk to? Who do you tell “I love you,” to? How do they reply?
Now you are on your way to school. How do you get there? Is it a bus? If so, who do you sit with? Who do you avoid? What is important to know in this place? As you arrive at school, what buildings surround you? Where do you go and where do you want to go? What colors are the hallways? Is there a teacher you remember and care about? What classes do you like, or do not like at all? Do you stand around or walk with a group you belong in? What clothes do your friends wear? What do they talk about? Do they make you laugh? Or cry? Or both? How do you feel as you go from class to class? Where do you want to be, and what will you do after school?
As you open your eyes, what did you experience? What memories that flooded to you; are there any faces that flash before your mind? We all were young once, and remembering ourselves is important as we minister. If we have a false sense of what it was like, and often we can impose our adult notions of reality on the young. Their world isn’t much different than your world was, especially in how relationships work and how confusing life is in the years we discover our own identity. Learning to be a grown up takes years of practice, and the transition from childhood is tumultuous as well as exciting!
God made this as a special phase, and understanding how you came to be “you”, will help as you reach out with compassion. Always remember to remain an adult with safety and rules. But also remember that as Christ walked among us and knew how we felt, we can bring the good news as we walk among them and transparently glow with Christ’s love to those we love.
(This article was originally published in The Advocate, South Carolina’s Connectional Newspaper for the SC United Methodist Church)