Every now and then I will read a status update from one of my friends on Facebook that is really good. I may even hit the “like” button on it, it’s that good! Whether it’s an update about the persons day, a link to a fantastic blog-post or a quick quip that had me at hello, I “like” it and want the person to know. It got me thinking; what if Christians carried around “Like” buttons and started practicing this in person more often?
I’ve now entered my 20th year of working in Youth Ministry. I certainly “like” this. I really enjoy working with teens, parents/families of teens and all the other people who are on the team influencing youth. But it is often a world where “like” buttons are not pushed often enough or for the right reason.
We often “like” the little things in life. We like things that are often just the first layer of the person. We honor humor, appearance and ability. This is not wrong at all; but these attributes are only the skin (and sometimes the cover) to the soul. I wonder what it would look like in youth ministry if we took the time to “like” the soul of the other person?
Whether you’re a parent in youth ministry, serving as volunteer on a team, or maybe even a student, this blog is for you. If you’re an elder at church with a youth group, a principal at a school that has a campus club (Young Life, Youth For Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, etc.) or if you’re a grandparent of a child who goes to a Student Ministry group, this post is for you as well. Soul encouragement is needed, let’s move beyond the surface and begin to bless one another with real “likes.” I’ll give three quick snapshots.
To Parents/Families: Take the time to speak into the lives of those influencing your teen. Please understand that though the Youth Pastor may receive a paycheck for what he or she does, that X amount of money isn’t the reason they are doing it. The value of a changed life, reproduced soul and influenced family is the real payment. Knowing that what he or she does is bringing glory to God is certainly payment enough, but please don’t let it stop there-you have the opportunity to give them the cherry-on top and the affirmation/reminder that God is at work in his or her life. Think about the scores of others, the volunteers in student ministry who don’t get the monetary reminder of a job well done, these shepherds will be fueled by your encouragement. But again, don’t just say “thanks,” speak into their lives. Let them know what you “like” and why. Don’t just compliment about how they are leading your family member, notice the attributes of their soul.
Students: Take the time to compliment, encourage and bless your best disciplers. For many, this is not your Youth Pastor or even your small group leader, my prayer is that it is your family (and even more pointedly, your parents)! Of course, you should bless the socks off your other influencers as well; but I’d encourage you to honor your parents/family behind their backs, but in addition, speak into their lives at home. Remind your Dad of the great things God is teaching you through the way he lives his life. Tell your Mom the wonderful things you see the Lord doing in her life. Don’t just say “thank you” for the way they provide, give your parents permission to lead you even better! I know that some come from difficult situations where this isn’t possible; but you’re not exempt, the spiritual parents in your life will be so blessed by your words, emails, texts and wall posts.
Youth Pastors/Leaders: We are typically great at “liking” the surface things. Because our influence comes in one hour chunks a few times a week, we don’t often have a lot of time to speak more deeply. When we go to watch the game we compliment after, “good game.” When we hear the student give a testimony at church we often follow up with “great job, you did awesome.” Again, this isn’t wrong; but what if we dove in deeper? The parents of teens in your group are influencing the way you have or will parent; take the time to speak blessing into those lives, go beyond thanking, give examples of why and how you were influenced. Your teammates in youth ministry could stand to be blessed as well. Whether it is a co-leader, another Youth Pastor across town or the parachurch guy/gal at the school; speak deep with real “likes.”
Of course I could go on, but instead, let’s just move on to action. Let’s fan into flame the gifts the Holy Spirit has given. I read in 1 John the consistent reminder for the believers to love each other, then the outsiders will know us. I see in Acts that the early church met with one another “constantly” and loved each other so well that those outside the church came to know Christ. I see in 1 Thessalonians that Paul wanted to “live among” the people so that the Gospel and life could be shared. Our call is to love, encourage and bless the body by not just liking, but loving.
My “like” button is in hand, I pray that I’ll be able to “like” the soul of those around me so well, that they truly do sense my love for them, not just my “like” for what they do. The student ministry world will be rocked, the church will move forward and those lost may even be found!