It is a beautiful thing when adults in the church begin to see teenagers through the lens of Jesus. As adults, the surface level “sins” that stereotype teenagers begin to fall away like scales from our Pharisaical eyes. Instead of focusing on the way they dress, talk, and carry themselves, we begin to focus on the hurt and pain in their lives. Instead of being discouraged by their inconsistency and lack of commitment (that frustratingly seems to only cost the church money from youth budgets that are often already lacking), the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to us their need for consistency from us. He shows us that their behavior that frustrates us and conveys apathy and disinterest is a mere reflection of what they experience day to day. It is all they know.
I’ve had students that were difficult. If you have been in youth ministry longer than three weeks, you have as well. It’s the ones that won’t listen, won’t sit still during the message, talk when they shouldn’t, and glare silently when it is time for discussion. Their attitude and posture conveys an adamant “I don’t want to be here.” They don’t look or act or talk like the rest of your group. They have that huge chip on their shoulder and all you want to do is reach across the room and knock it off for them (note: sarcasm).
I am a firm believer that we must create a culture of expectation in our student ministry. My first pastor told me, “Whatever you do, don’t let the inmates run the asylum.” it may sound harsh, but it’s true. However, we can’t expect those who are not yet a part of the kingdom of God to have the same respect for the house and family of God. They don’t understand it’s importance until they see it in you.
What would happen if we began to focus less on what students do and more on what Jesus wants to do in their lives? Could it be that I spend too much time dwelling on the symptoms and never consider the diagnosis? The symptoms are the irritating behavior issues and attitude, the diagnosis is they need Jesus… and the only place they are going to find Him is in the family of God.
“Lord, let me see them through Your eyes and love them with Your heart. May they see You in me.”