Because of our work at Download Youth Ministry, I talk to youth workers everyday in one way or another (face-to-face, blog, email, phone, skype…even smoke signal occasionally). It’s interesting to me that one of the top questions and concerns I hear from them is, “Do I have what kids need?” That’s a fair question! I often wonder it myself. I’m a dad of a teenager with 3 more right behind and I wonder, “Do I have what kids need.” I don’t dress like them, I don’t listen to their music, I don’t share their likes, fears and concerns. What do I offer?
You may be thinking this too…if not now, you will someday.
I want to try to answer that question by looking at a specific passage of Scripture that has come to mean a lot to me over the past couple of years: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-27.
Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. (that’s us!) They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all the brothers and sisters with Christian love. I command you in the name of the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The context of this passage surrounds the second coming of Jesus. His followers–awake or asleep–will be with Him eventually. But what I love the most about this text is that the Apostle Paul gives some very specific actions to those who are alive. So, with the context of teenagers on your mind and heart right now, let’s consider a few of his challenges:
First, he says, “Take tender care of those who are weak.”
We can do that! Regardless of age or skill level. We can share in the privilege of serving students who are hurting and weak. We can come alongside them and encourage them, accept them, show the love of Jesus is real and meet them in their weakness. What an honorable calling if we only did this—give strength to those who are weak. You and I can do that!
Secondly, he calls us to, “Be patient with everyone.”
Argh! I wish he wouldn’t have said that! Youth ministry would be so much easier if we didn’t have to be patient. Okay, let’s get personal: raise your hand if you have that “one kid” in your youth group or even in your small group? I imagine all of you raising your hand. I know! I try to pray them to another youth group. By last count, I think we have about 13 of those “one kids” involved in our youth ministry. Sometimes it seems like that’s pretty much all of them. That’s why Paul tells us to be patient. Actually, it’s more than just patience…we are to be long-suffering, slow to anger, slow to punish, quick to bear the offense of that “one kid” who always speaks quickly and thinks later. Thank you for expressing Jesus through your patience with teenagers. That’s a bigger deal than you might imagine.
Maybe that’s why Paul continues and says we should, “Never stop praying.”
What a powerful spiritual tool that God has given us at our disposal: prayer! You don’t have to be cool, young, in-touch with youth culture to pray. As a leader, you can go directly to God for help as you minister to students. Go boldly and share your insecurities, your inadequacies, and your fears and His spirit will strengthen you with the words to say and actions to take. How I wish I would have developed this habit earlier in my ministry. I used to talk to kids a lot about God, now I find myself talking to God a lot…about the kids.
I know my prayers are heard because Paul also tells us in this passage “…for he who calls you is faithful.”
How beautiful are those words? Don’t worry about your ministry results…God is faithful. God will use His Word and your words to minister to teenagers. It might not always feel like it, in fact – most of the time it probably won’t. BUT, God is faithful! It’s not your pressure, the pressure is on Him to fulfill His promise and He can handle that pressure.
The last part of the passage says, “Greet all the brothers and sisters with Christian love.”
I love this and I want to leave you with the challenge to remember that you don’t serve alone. There are others on your youth ministry team, there are others in your church, others in your community, and others around the world who share together in the calling of loving teenagers and making Jesus known. We can support each other, cheer each other on, hold each other accountable, and do life together. What a win for the Kingdom and for youth ministry!
Here’s what I want you to hear: God has put you in your church and in your youth group for this moment! He wanted you to be there for this crisis, for these students…even for that “one kid.” God is using you right here as a minister to teenagers for Him. I’m proud to be on your team and the bigger team of caring adults ministering to kids.
Blessings to you as you love God and love students! JG
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