worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright
and godly lives in this present age.
- Titus 2:11-12
Not long ago I met with a fellow youth worker who told me about a group of middle school boys who were driving him nuts. They never seemed to pay attention, they distracted everyone at youth group, and then recently on the way to camp, they destroyed the back of the bus with litter and spilled soda and candy all over the floor and seats. I mentioned how that sounded like a lot of middle school boys I've known over the years, me included. But he went on to tell me what he did to discipline them. He said that he not only made them clean the bus when they arrived at camp, but he also made them get on the bus last (which means front seats) on the way home from camp a week later. I said, "you mean you were still punishing them 6 days later?!" He looked at me kind of startled and asked, "Well Brock, what would you have done?" I said, "I would've had them get on the bus first. I would have told them that I believed in them, that they were leaders, and that I really thought they could set the pace for our youth group. I would have had those guys get on first."
Some of you know this about me, but I've gotten in trouble my whole ENTIRE life. I was suspended from school a few different times growing up, almost kicked out of college, and my wife can attest to this: I've been up the creek more than a few times even as an adult. But some of the most transformative moments I've ever experienced have been when I was surprised by grace. So much so that it's how we've set up our youth ministry from the get go.
We've tried our hardest to create environments where students feel free to mess up, to blow it, to screw up royally. In fact, we believe that the essence of youth ministry is to create environments where students can experience God's warmth. His warmth through us and everything that we do. But I can tell you, the grace I'm talking about is unmerited and undeserved favor and is most impactful in the midst of bad behavior. Those moments where students act awful, disrespectful, disruptive... and how do we respond? We respond with favor and love... i.e. GRACE. They best experience overwhelming warmth in the midst of failure. We all do. This is what is best about our God - he's really good at this and we get to be empowered to do what doesn't come natural to us through his Spirit in us. We get to be his tender response, his words of healing and vision...
Now, I don't believe we should be push overs and allow bad behavior to continue - or to just ignore it. Ignoring it is not grace. In Titus it does not tell us that passive aggressiveness, disappointment, and discipline changes us - NOPE! Grace changes us, grace makes us disciplined - it's grace that teaches us to say no to the things that keep ourselves and others from flourishing.
May your ministry this fall be marked by the Holy Spirit's empowerment to display amazing favor, love, and the same grace that you've received from God and may it pour out all over the lives of the students that Jesus has entrusted to you!