I had a secret for most of my teen years. In fact, I kept this secret until I was 25 years old. Even now I hold this little piece of information about myself safe and only when I am certain that it is safe do I share it. I didn’t want people to judge me, look at me differently, or pity me. I had watched it happen with others…even been a part of it myself. I would watch someone allow themselves to be vulnerable, they shared a secret, and that secret became a sword. I was not going to allow that to happen to myself. So I waited years and kept a part of who I was hidden…and really I was in need of healing.
We should strive to have youth ministries that are safe places for students to be fully themselves. A place where secrets can be shared with confidence knowing that it won’t be held against them.
We can create a safe place by…
Creating a culture of honesty. As a parent, I value my children telling me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it. We celebrate the confession even when it is not what we want to hear; telling the truth is of great importance. In our ministries we need to celebrate the confessions. Telling the truth about who we are is way more important than pretending to be someone or something else.
Creating a culture of grace. Everyone is on a journey. Another way of saying it is that all of us are in recovery. We are all sin addicts, slowly recovering as we become more like Jesus. Students can feel the underlying expectations on them. We allow for truth telling when we allow for grace to be the norm instead of guilt. We give permission to the process of recovery.
Creating of culture of caring adults. Before anyone tells their secret they ask themselves is this person safe. To create a safe ministry you must build a team of safe adults. Adults whose primary goal isn’t making sure the rules are followed (though that is helpful too) but instead their goal is to help a student find their way to honesty and healing. When a student feels that kind of care our ministries become safer places.
Creating a safe youth ministry requires effort and clear purpose but it is possible.
I should offer this warning: It can be so messy, but it can also be so powerful.