“We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours” 2 Corinthians 4:7 This beautiful verse challenges my heart to move out of comfort and into partnership with my Savior. There is no greater purpose for my life than to serve as a vessel for the love and power of God and for that to spill out onto every person I meet. That means my life must be intentional as I partner with Jesus.
When my boys reached the tween and teen years, our house became an open door for teens. Between Wyldlife, Young Life, and Chapelwood Student Ministry events, every weekend you could find many teens playing football in the yard/street, basketball on the driveway, ping pong in the garage, swimming in the pool, and hanging out in the house. My husband and I loved teens and felt called to provide a safe place for them to be themselves, learn about their own identities, and have fun. We didn’t worry about the constant noise, drama, and of course, never-ending mess that now filled our home. We were in love with Jesus and we wanted to share His love with as many teens as possible. Our neighbors, however, did not feel the same way (about the teens). They had young children, and did not appreciate basketball at midnight, footballs thrown into their yard, and the never-ending stream of students at our home. We tried our best to accommodate our neighbors, but I wondered if they realized their children (sooner than they thought) would someday become teenagers and they would want them to have a safe place to play and hangout that also involved great fun and plenty of Jesus. My husband and I realized that we were planting seeds, drawing out treasure, and praying that each student who crossed our path would have a taste of the goodness of God.
As we enter into a season of summer where volunteering, camps, VBS, mission trips, and more fill our churches, it’s important to keep sight of Jesus in all of it. As you are leading and volunteering in your church, it’s important for us to remember that we are planting seeds, creating a path, and pulling treasure out of children and teens. In other words—you are being Jesus for them. Leading and loving children who do not belong to you can be difficult and leading and loving teens can be even more difficult, especially if your children are not yet teens. As you partner with the Lord for a week and/or summer of ministry, think about this: it is about bringing Heaven to Earth for children, teens, and adults. If we are going to make an impact in someone else’s life, we must have a love for them, and actually care about them as children of God.
Start TODAY and pray for your teens.
Today, begin praying for all the children AND teens you will be working with. Ask the Lord to instill a love for them like He has for you. Take five minutes each night before you go to bed and find scripture about how much Jesus loves you, and then ask him to put that same love in your heart for others. Remember, we have no authority to minister to those whom we do not love. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will like everyone, or that they won’t annoy you, but the love of Christ will give you compassion for them and the ability to see who God intends them to be.
Teens are people too.
These people are desperately wanting to be known and loved. Many are afraid they are not enough and will not be enough. Many have grown up in a religious system that tells them they have to perform, but we know this is not kingdom thinking.
Be mindful of how you can love your teens even when they seem to be constantly on their phones or not exactly where they are supposed to be or not quite as helpful as they could be. Some ideas:
Make sure you know their names. When you meet them, take time to find out a little bit about them.
Everyday ask the Lord to give you words of wisdom to toss into their souls, things like:
“You are very perceptive.”
“I love the way you engage with the children.”
“You are so creative.”
“You are strong.”
“I see courage in you.”
“Thank you for your willingness to love on these kids today etc.”
If you see none of those things, then try saying the opposite of what you see because more than likely, their hidden treasure is being buried in their hearts.
If your teen doesn’t really engage, tell them you believe that they are important and that the kids will really connect with them.
If your teen never smiles or talks, tell them that you see joy in them and love that the kids will receive that joy from them.
Be specific. Many teens need to be asked to do something. It isn’t obvious to them that you need help or want it! Ask them specifically to do what needs to be done:
“Will you play with little Johnny? He seems to need some direction.”
“Please take the kids to …”
“I need __________, will you go get it. I will need it 15 min after your break.”
“The kids seems to love being with you! Will you attach yourself to that group of boys.” (who are driving you crazy)
“Will you please read this story to this group.”
“Take this group to the playground and play with them.”
At the end of the day, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for your help today.”
Ask them how they thought the day went.
If your teen has not really responded or helped, say “Thanks so much for being here. I know this probably isn’t your favorite thing, but I can see that you are responsible and want to help. Here are some ideas that might work tomorrow.”
Get to know this teen so he/she believes you actually care about who they are and who they are becoming.
You never know what is going on in a child or teen’s life. You may be the only positive influence they have been around in weeks.
Serving in church where there’s intergenerational interaction is an opportunity to show all those around you who Jesus is and His love for them. That happens through your relationship with the children and teens, not through teaching alone.
Ask the Lord what He has in mind for loving on the children and teenagers in your church, and then pray for the Holy Spirit to give you power, strength, and courage to partner with God in this. This means that you will be the Jesus they see and that will be way more important than getting the lesson or craft or whatever done. Ask the Lord to show you what He sees.
Children need to grow up knowing who they are in Christ, knowing how loved they are by God, that God is good, and that they have a very important role in His kingdom. We can impart this to other people, by knowing this ourselves, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us
Will you allow your heart to be an open door for children and teens to find the glorious love of Jesus? If this is your desire, ask, seek, and knock—the Lord will make it so.
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