I love high school and middle school students. I love celebrating things like getting a first job with them, and I love moaning with them when they realize what working a first job is actually like. I love helping them work out how to ask someone to that oh-so-important dance and I love reminding them they’re loved when they get their heart broken. I love their stupid laffy-taffy jokes and I love their spiritual revelation moments. But not everyone in the church is called to the nitty-gritty of youth ministry, and that’s okay! You are still impacting youth ministry, even if you have never talked with a member of our youth group before. But unfortunately, I think many of the adults in our church family have ignored the responsibility that entails.
Now before you roll your eyes, please understand that I am not playing the blame-game in this post. I just think that if we, as a faith family, can discuss these things openly, we can strive to make our impact more positive and Christ-like. You see, if there is one thing Christ emphasized it is the importance of words. He knew words were so powerful that He wrote a living Word to guide us in our life. But too often I see the adults in our church modeling an irresponsibility with our words.
Let me explain. Whenever there is a suicide, self-harm initiative, or bullying epidemic in our school systems I always see the adults in our church look at each other, sigh, and say, “Kids can be so mean”. I hate this phrase. I hate it because when we say it we imply that something about being below the age of 18 makes us prone to being a bully. It implies that once you’re an adult you’ve matured out of this pettiness. It implies that the only people who have an impact on kids lives are their peers. But that’s not true, is it? I know adults can be mean too. Even the best intentioned adults. I know because I’m friends with them on Facebook.
You see, adults love to say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and then post an article about why the opposing political party are evil idiots. Or about the generation younger then them, who are lazy and entitled. Or about why someone else’s sin is 10x worse than theirs. And if our Pastors asked us in church, “are any sins worse or better?” we’d all confidently say “no”, but our social media tells a different story. I too have fallen, and continue to fall into this trap. It’s easy to read an article or post a status through the lens of our own life experiences and not realize how it may appear to someone else. Or maybe we just feel that people need to grow up and stop being so sensitive. But I believe that this view-point is just Satan’s way of encouraging us to be more self-centered.
Because it is self-centered when you don’t take the time to really think through how your words affect others. I’m not saying that everything you say has to please everyone, or that you can no longer take positions on any issue in case you offend someone. I’m just asking you if you really think social media is the best place to do that. Because our kids see it. They see it and then they begin to ask themselves why, if Christ was so loving, church people only focus on the things they hate. You may volunteer consistently at church without being asked, but our youth are far more likely to remember what your last Facebook post was. Because words have power. God designed them that way.
I pray this post encourages you to really step back and ask yourself how your words are affecting the faith of the little lambs God has entrusted our faith family with. Because they see it all, trust me. Bullying is a learned behavior, and maybe it’s time that we, as Christian adults, start taking some responsibility for where they learned it. You are impacting youth ministry every day, make sure your impact is positive.
Director of Youth Ministry
Redeemer Lutheran Church