Don’t be a try-hard, just try harder
We may worry too much about being liked, and miss the real value of a youth leader's life.
Nobody likes a try-hard: we all know it. Teenagers like 'em even less. I've noticed that some youth leaders I know have gotten stressed at their youth pastor for requiring their youth ministry team to adopt a "ROLE DESCRIPTION." With some digging, I found out that the stress was leaking out of their 'cool cucumber' lobe. That's the part of us which wants to be liked easily, with little effort, just for being, well, nice. Easy-going.
To be blunt - I think that's stinkin' thinkin' coming from a leader who works in Jesus' name. The "cool cucumber" lobe needs standing up to - especially when we're in the presence of kids. Kids go after cool like a free iPod - passionately. And some younger leaders can easily get drawn into that same urge in themselves. So they begin to 'act up' or 'dress down' for attention from the group. But leaders, please, let's THINK THROUGH our role and MAKE SOME DECISIONS about what our job IS and ISN'T.
So, if we're tempted to need teenaged friends a little too much, and to procure them via our youth group - we have to get over ourselves. And Quickly. The role we have taken on is incompatible with being passive or under the influence of the kids. We are there to shape their impressionable lives - not the other way around!
That's why, on our church youth ministry team, we labelled our first main ROLE as:
"Christian modeling to encourage the spiritual growth of high school youths"
(Colossians 1:28-29.) We're doing that job in a very active way, not just because, nor because we got recruited by someone. We do it in response to God's word to us about leading others in everything we do toward Christ:
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."
Don't ever let yourself feel that you aren't an important part of God's plan for these kids to grow 'complete in Christ.'
If that thought occurs to you regularly or in particular situations with kids, you need to challenge it and defeat it: because it's not from God. The opinions of others or even a self-opinion that we store in our heads is easy to use to guide us when we're "in the thick of it" relating to the kids. But that's not to be our way - God is the one who has re-made us in Christ to be HIS new creature. HIS new guy or gal who works for HIM now.
He calls us into action, and the way we think can mirror the way Paul writes (AND thought) in that verse above. We are a mouthpiece to make Jesus known, to get Jesus on the agenda with our conversations and in our many relationship opportunities with our teens.
There's some admonishing - speaking the challenge of what God says to a kid about his/her life at that time. It's not narky - because it's passing on God's word and its challenge to many choices which kids need to hear from him on: who to befriend, how to react to parents' words, sexual habits, goals for life etc. It's also a great way to establish your presence within the group as a leader, as well as a friend. Some leaders don't have the courage for this, and kids tend not to take them seriously as coaches for their faith.
And there's some teaching - positively directing kids to what God has said is His way for them. Are you ready to take up that humbling place of authority in their lives? It's not overwhelming, if HE is driving it and TRUSTED by us to carry us through it. The main way he does it, is that as we try to teach them what God prefers for them, we're drawing on His word and doing it "with all wisdom."
Wisdom: that's the gift He gives to make the words the RIGHT ones for that kid and that situation. So I encourage you - JUMP INTO your joyful job of coaching kids towards Christ - with prayerful trust and as much enthusiasm as you can gather. Remember He WILL be with you in this, close beside and carrying the words you say, and the love you show.
Will you help a kid this week to engage the truth that God's given, and welcome Him into their life?
What's the bigger benefit of these two options?
1) A Christian leader who's trying really hard to be relevant to their culture OR
2) A leader in Jesus' grip who's living & speaking to be relevant to their own message?
A wise word to finish:
"Teens are looking for more from a youth ministry than a holding tank with pizza & fun times. They look for a church that teaches them how to live life."
(Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Ministries.)