By Neil Christians
This is part 2 of this post. See Part 1 here.
We are the ones who hold up a mirror to our students. We need to show them what they cannot see; themselves as a beautiful and wonderful creation in the image of God. Everyone needs to know these three things.
First is that they are okay. Deep within each of us, we feel that we are defective in some way. We are broken and wonder if God somehow made a mistake in making us. This is never more evident than in middle school and high school when one is just starting to grow into their adult powers. This time of change is both wonderful and terrifying. We need to assure them that they are okay, that God didn’t’ make a mistake in creating them the way He did.
Second is that they belong. We are all searching for a place where we belong. I know you all get frustrated with the question as you plan an event. “Hey, are you coming to the lock-in?” “I don’t know. Who else is going?” But if we’re honest, it’s not just our students who do this. This is why Evite is so popular and Facebook events. We all want to have a place of belonging. Where we’re accepted for who we are. A place where are our friends are.
Last is that they are valued. We want to know that what we do is significant. We want to make a difference in this world. We want to be remembered. We want meaning and purpose. We have the great opportunity to show students that even the littlest thing they do makes a huge difference in the lives of another.
We need to provide a place where they can impact the community in significant ways and we need to do the same in our own congregations. A place where they can serve communion, do home visits, and actively participate in the life of the congregation. If you get any push back on this from staff, council or members of your congregation, have them turn to the Rite of Baptism where they committed with these words, “We welcome you into the Lord’s family…a worker with us in the kingdom of God.” Also remind them that one of the goals of Confirmation is to help them participate more fully in the mission of the Christian community. (This is from the ELCA website on how we define confirmation.)
We need to make sure that we are all praying for our students. We need to raise them up in prayer and trust that God will work in their lives. It is the job of the adults to scatter the seed of God’s word. It is God’s job to grow the seed. But after we scatter the seed, we must expect God to show up. Trust that God will use whatever you do to bring about a harvest 10, 100. 1000 fold! I honestly don’t think that we do this enough in our congregations. We expect kids to grow older but we don’t expect them to be on fire for Christ. We don’t expect God to show up in their lives in powerful ways. We expect it to happen at camp but we don’t expect it to happen in our church, in Sunday School or on a Wednesday night. This is a time of change for our students. Expect that God will do great things! Are you preparing for a party or are you preparing to see the church die? We always find what we’re looking for. What are you expecting to see in your students?
Show students that they are making a difference. Praise them for the little things that they do
This past Sunday morning we had our high school students attend the younger kids’ Christmas show during the Sunday School hour. To the high school students, this wasn’t a big deal. In fact, to some of them it was a waste of time. That was until I reflected to them who they were in the eyes of these younger kids. To a younger student, a high school student is the epitome of COOL!
“Did you know that when the younger students were told that the high school students were in the audience their eyes got really big and they got VERY excited?”
“Really?!?” The high school students replied.
“Yes, you have no idea how much it means to them that you high school students came to see their show. This means the world to them. To them you are guys are Rock Stars! You just made a huge impact in their lives. They feel so proud that you clapped and cheered for them. You showed them that they matter. You showed them that they are special. It may not have felt like much to you, but to the kids it made a huge difference. What you did this morning really mattered! Thank you.”
We never see the impact of how we affect those around us. The smallest act of kindness can change the world and it is our great privilege to show this to our students. They many not feel that they can change the world, but they can change the world for one individual. It is our job to reflect to students who they are and how they are making a difference in the world and to praise them when we see them do even the smallest act of kindness.
How are you preparing the table for your students? How are your adults preparing? We do this at camp, now it is time for us to start being more intentional in our own congregations.
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Neil Christians is the Director of the Family Ministry Team at Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC. He has been in paid children,youth and family ministry for 20 years and is passionate about mentoring others in a life of faith. Other passions include Harry Potter, movie clips and his favorite band Switchfoot. So, watch for references to these in his blog posts.