This might get some heat, but it’s something I have been sitting on for a while and I just got back from vacation. When I get away it allows me to collect some thoughts a bit better. This is not a political stance on an issue, but more of thinking about my fellow youth workers as they all are navigating how to minister and respond to students to all that is happening while in the midst of a pandemic.
In our country, there are lots of emotions, hurts, passions, movements, tragedies, etc all happening at once. There are a lot of opinions, teachings, conversations, and responses happening. People are upset, people are being cancelled, some people showing their true selves online… some of those people are youth workers like you and me.
Here’s the question that comes into my mind while all this is going on: Even though we are passionate about certain things, how are we responding to all these things knowing that our students are watching? Does it point back to our students wanting to follow Jesus more? Or less?
Even when they don’t see our responses (cough cough… youth ministry Facebook groups… cough cough), the question applies.
Is that something we as youth workers are thinking through as we have the responsibility to shepherd the next generation into Jesus-like response? I won’t lie to you: I will say lots of us are doing great, but some not so much.
Gen-Z, the generation we minister to right now, is in a prime spot for using social media to express themselves and what they are for. As leaders, we can show them how to do it well and in a way that is honoring to Jesus. This got me thinking about how we respond to the things going on.
Election. People get weird about politics. They say things like, “Jesus aligns with Republican values, not Democratic ones.” Or vice versa – “No way. Jesus was more Democratic in His perspective than Republican.” I think Jesus would be neither, because He would lead his own kingdom movement against a corrupt political structure. I’m pretty sure Jesus would be canceled if He were teaching today. He would offer the grace of the cross to those coming against Him.
We should offer grace to those who are learning and slipping up in the process, and walk with them.
“Jesus would be part of the social movement of Black Lives Matter.” “No, Jesus would focus on racism as an individual spiritual issue.” The truth is, Jesus did things in ways that upset a lot of people and didn’t seem to make sense at the time. It’s funny to me when people say “Oh, Jesus would have for sure done this,” when it seems like no one truly understood what He was about when He was alive, let alone when He’s not physically with us. That’s a whole other post.
Do you see how in the middle of this post, it started veering away from my beginning question? (To review: “How are we responding to all the things happening right now? Does it point back to our students wanting to follow Jesus more? Or less?”)
Regardless of where you stand on what issue, what I want to point back to is our students are watching it all. They are little creepers, stalking us, seeing what we post, what we like, and how we respond. They see how we respond to people who disagree with us, who get it wrong and repent and ask for forgiveness, and people in general who are struggling with all the mixed emotions happening today.
As youth workers, we have a unique opportunity to help our students walk through these times AND point them back to a Savior who will continue to challenge their ideas and ideals, their values, and their passions. Hopefully they will point others to Jesus themselves.
Let us steward students’ lives well.
Here are some reflection questions that we have to challenge ourselves with as leaders, because we know students are watching:
Is what I am posting online a reflection of my true faith in Jesus?
What would students say or think about my posts or lack of posts?
Does that point them to Jesus more or less?
If someone disagrees with me, is my response one of grace and truth? Or is it passionate, loud, and off-putting?
I can’t answer them for you. I can only answer it for myself and I won’t lie. It’s hard sometimes. Does it look different for everyone on how this plays out? Sure. We won’t all respond the same way. But asking these questions is always worth it.