The essence of youth ministry is creating environments where students experience the warmth of God - and camps, retreats, and mission trips are the perfect place for kids to, in a daily way, experience the reality that God not only loves them, but his heart is with them. His name is Immanuel! They are safe. It's a judgement free zone - and his response through us is always Grace. Even when students share things that shock and terrify us - Our response? Grace. Why grace? Titus tells us:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age
Grace is the right answer. Love is always the right response. It was for you, it was for me. Grace and love taught us to submit our lives to God. All of the struggles, all of the pain...
And students who sense this warmth will open up - and we know that when we verbalize our struggles, our pain, our junk -> freedom will come. We invite people and God into all of the mess - vulnerability is just so key in transformational ministry.
For us leaders, it's just so important that we are in tune with Holy Spirit. That we are aware of what is really going on and when students begin to share, we then are ready to become God's listening ears, his touch, and his words -> Deeply listening to him as we are also deeply listening to our students stories - this can help us respond in a truly empowered by him kind of way.
I love the summer. I love what God does in our ministry this time of year.
May we learn the art of simultaneous listening.