In the Summer of 2000 I reluctantly agreed to take on the youth work at the King's Arms Church! Now, almost 9 years on, I am about to down tools and move onto something new. It feels pretty tough to say the least. Over the years I have come to love what I do and the amazing young people I serve. I'm not just saying that for effect. Anyone who knows the young people at the King's Arms would have to agree. They really are amazing; such inspiring young men and women who love Jesus and run after Him. It has been such a privilege to be involved in their lives over the years. My housemate and friend Becky Ross will be the new King's Arms youth leader as of a week tomorrow. She is going to do a brilliant job. So as I move onto new things I want to take a bit of time to reflect on some of the things I've learnt over the years. Hopefully some of these thoughts will be helpful for those of you serving in one of the best areas of church life!
1) Always point your young people to Jesus: My hope for all the young people I serve is that they would continue to fall more and more in love with Jesus. It's tempting when you lead young people to want them to look to you to boost your self-esteem and to make you feel good about yourself, but the truth is that we cannot be their saviour. Only Jesus can do that! I want my young people to look up to Jesus and have Him as their hero rather than them focussing too much on me. Pointing your young people to Jesus also helps to guard against them being too inward looking and focussed on themselves. If the young people I serve head off to university in love with Jesus and with their own personnal walk with Him (a relationship that isn't dependent on me being around them or them being around me) then I am happy! Never happy to see them go but totally happy with where they're at!
2) Be the best role model you can be: This is a biggy! Young people watch you when you lead them. That's the main way that they learn. Are we living what we're preaching? I hope very much that I have. So in what ways can we model how to do life; there are so many...
- Model being in love with Jesus, His Church and His Kingdom
- Model purity - whether you're single, in a relationship or married
- Model integrity - Live the life that you speak. Don't be too proud to apologise when you get stuff wrong (which you will) Be open and real about your life
- Model reaching out - We can't expect our kids to reach out to their friends if we're not reaching out to ours!
- Model how you speak - Honour yourself, the youth and others with what you say
3) Pray, pray, pray: Prayer works! That might sound like a pretty obvious thing to say, but it's easy to forget and is often the first thing that goes when we get busy. I remember when one of my young people was anti tongues and I was gearing myself up to have a conversation with her about it. I prayed that God would intervene and sure enough, before I'd had the chance to sit her down He had! One week at small groups I noticed she was speaking in tongues! When I asked her what had happened she told me that she'd had a dream where she was speaking in tongues and that when she woke up she'd decided that she must already have the gift and so she might as well start using it! God is so good! Pray, pray and pray some more and see what God will do!
Working with young people is an incredible privilege. Do your best not to take it for granted! Be their biggest fan and look to big them up whenever you can while also challenging behaviour where necessary. Whatever you do, don't be small minded in your expectations of how God will use them. He has plans worked out for each of them to do and we get to help them on their journey. I can't think of a better way to serve the church! (Except for maybe leading a new training school called TSM! :o))