As we finish up our third part in this series of spiritual qualifications for leading youth, the last four may seem obvious. However, it is my opinion that the church sometimes struggles because the obvious goes unstated so long that it becomes less and less obvious, and you end up with a generation of believers who don’t ever do things like share their faith (for example). So, we will state the obvious and important:
Love for Others
Have you ever met someone who has an overwhelming sense of love…of self? Maybe you noticed because of his or her focus on themselves in conversation. Maybe it was the fact that every purchase he or she makes is for themselves. Maybe you get the sense that no one in the history of the world has ever had it so good (or bad) as this person. A great way to make sure this isn’t you is to monitor your “I’s” and “Me’s” for a day.
Are you willing to get your hands dirty?
Next, let’s consider how your body language speaks to others about your love for them. Have you rejected the urge to pull out your phone when someone else is talking? Have you considered turning off notifications on apps that will only tell you when someone likes or follows you? So, maybe you leave them on for actual communication purposes, but not just for self-gratification. How about your listening skills? Do you lean forward when someone is talking to you, or do you lean backward? Arms crossed, or open? Do you ask follow-up questions? How about offering to pray with someone whether you know he or she is a believer or not. Are you willing to get your hands dirty, not just talk about how hard the situation is?
If we are honest, most of us are selfish to one degree or another. We are usually able to hide our selfishness by controlling when and where it shows its ugly head. There is no need to go too deep with this topic since we all know what it means. Let’s just consider two important points.
First, Christ’s selflessness. Philippians 2 talks about Christ emptying Himself and taking on the form of a servant. Consider the power behind verses 3-7.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Second, in those times when someone requires extra grace. When I was a teenager, our youth group went to this cool camp in Ohio. It was rustic, but lots of fun. One night, our youth pastor was on the floor wrestling with us guys in the cabin. There was this one really obnoxious kid who always seemed to make the youth pastor’s job more difficult. Sometimes he would forget stuff, or be the only one who had to stop for the bathroom. The teen had emotional issues that always seemed to be taxing on our youth pastor’s time and patience. We all felt it. Now, back to the wrestling match. The youth pastor was on his stomach and had a teen or two on his back when this kid stomped on the back of his head and broke his tooth on the concrete floor. The teen was not a mean kid, just not very thoughtful about his actions.
Selfishness often results in edifying others, and that can be life-changing.
In moments like these- and they do happen- how will you respond? Besides in pain? Will you be able to still take the form of a servant and preserve that teen’s dignity while you handle the anger you feel? Will you be able to walk beside him through his future self-confidence issues while you are waiting for the crown for your tooth to be made over the next month? This youth pastor was unselfish and recognized that this teen’s need for Christ and a godly influence was greater than the youth pastor’s pride (or smile for that matter). Selflessness often results in edifying others, and that can be life-changing.
There are several applications for the need for vision in a youth ministry. Once again, if it is not something you already have, it is certainly something you can ask God to give you. Perhaps the most important one is to be able to see your teenagers for the disciples God wants them to be, not just for the unfocused, undisciplined “problems” they can present themselves as at times.
Take a mother whose teenager seems to be the only source of conflict and strife in their home. How will you help this teen’s parents see them as arrows to launch as Psalm 127:3-5 states?
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”
Vision to see what God wants to do in the lives of youth, and communicating that vision clearly, is an important part of leading teens.
This topic is directly related to the topic of “Vision” we just mentioned. Faith is the substance of things not seen and the evidence of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). As you exercise the proclamation of the vision God has given you for youth, you are also acting in faith that He will accompany that vision with His good hand of blessing. That is to say, that He will complete the work.
I am ending with faith because many of you who might read this have a desire to disciple teens and genuinely pour yourself into their lives for the sake of the Gospel, but you have this nagging fear that you are not able to. I don’t know the reasons that you conjure up, it literally could be anything from your weight to your lack of Bible knowledge. This element of faith is incredibly important. You will need to exercise it a lot! This is no small step, but it is certainly one that God will make you ready for. What are you waiting for?! Start asking God to give you each of the spiritual qualifications listed in these first three posts.