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The necessity of affirming teens with words

You is smart

You is kind

You is important

This is what black housemaid Aibileen told two-year old Mae, the insecure child entrusted to her care, every day. Neglected by her mama, punished for things no child should be punished for, Mae had just one positive influence in her life: Aibileen and her daily affirmations. Even after being hit by her mama, seeking refuge in the arms of Aibileen, the girl could repeat what she had been taught. You is smart, you is kind, you is important.

It’s one of the wonderful scenes in the movie The Help, based on the bestselling book with the same title by Kathryn Stockett. The whole movie is an absolute must see because of the wonderful characters, the intriguing storyline and the superb acting. It succeeds completely in making a ‘heavy’ subject like racism and segregation in America in the early sixties completely very real, without ever getting preachy.

The whole movie struck a chord in me, but the daily affirmations of Aibileen especially. Aibileen loved Mae like she was her own daughter and she realized that she was the only positive influence in Mae’s life. Mae’s mother didn’t care for her, didn’t pay attention to her and had no problem with letting her lie in a dirty diaper all night. So Aibileen did what she could to teach Mae a different message than she was getting from her mother, to show her love and affirm her in every way she could. You is smart, you is kind, you is important.


In youth ministry, we come across ‘Mae’s’ every day. Teens who come from broken homes, from parents who aren’t capable of taking care of them the way they need, who can’t express their love. It’s a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

And like Aibileen, we need to realize that we may be the only positive influence in these teens’ lives. Which means we should take it upon ourselves to teach them a different message, to show them that they are loved and to affirm them as often as we can.

A lot of us may feel comfortable with showing love in action, for instance in listening to someone, being attentive, the occasional hug or touch. But we need to speak the words as well.

Kids who grow up in homes that aren’t real homes, who have no one telling them what they need to hear, they start hearing different things. They hear: you’re not good enough. You’re a disappointment. You’re stupid, you make me tired, I don’t want you here.

Those are powerful messages we need to contradict. Just showing what we feel isn’t good enough, we need to say it. With every single teen in need of love, we need to find the words to affirm them and say them.

We need to tell teens they’re smart and that if they put their mind to it, they can graduate or even go to college. We need to tell them that they have a choice as to who they want to be and that they can outgrow their circumstances. We need to tell them that they are perfect as they are and that God loves them no matter what. We need to tell them that they are capable of loving and being loved, no matter what others say to them. We need to speak the words they are missing out on in their homes.

What teens in your youth ministry or small group come from a background without love and affirmation? What is the message they need to hear? Think about this, pray about this and consciously decide on the message you want them to get, to know and to believe. Then start communicating it in every way you can, but especially in words. Say it to them every time you see them, send them texts or post messages on their Facebook wall. Do whatever you can to make them believe they are beautiful in God’s eyes.

You is smart

You is kind

You is important

By |2017-12-20T15:23:35+00:00September 6th, 2014|Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks|0 Comments

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