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I’ve counseled kids through almost every imaginable problem and cried through almost every type of tragedy. Solomon was right: There’s nothing new under the sun. So how do you keep your love for teenagers real?

Back in college, I was on a bus returning from a ministry tour. Even as a senior in training, I began to feel drained. Staring out the window, I mumbled to God, “I don’t know if I have what it takes to do this long haul.” Almost immediately, a Scripture I’d read that morning resurfaced. When Jesus saw the shepherdless crowds, his heart was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36). “Okay, Lord,” I thought. “Your motivating factor was compassion. But how do I realistically pursue that kind of compassion? I hear a lot of talk, but I don’t see much long-haul fruit.”

What happened next was one of my rare “thus sayeth the Lord” moments. In my mind, the word “compassion” divided into four smaller words, and God’s message was clear. “Compassion” became “come” and then “pass it on.”

That morning, Jesus gently tutored me in the art of authentic, Christlike love. “Come to me first,” he softly prompted. “During your times alone with me, drink in my love. Don’t get too busy to consistently come to me. Then, for the rest of your life, pass on that love.” God’s steady, fatherly voice continued: “All other sources of love will be shallow and short-lived. But if you return to me daily and let me fill you, my love will consistently flow from you.”

Countless times I’ve been seriously depleted because I failed to “come” to God. Human love, at its best, is short-lived against the backdrop of the youth culture we serve daily. But this simple truth has helped me keep my priorities aligned and my emotional tank full.
When the books are closed on my youth ministry run, I doubt many people will remember the size of my groups or many points from my messages. But if the Lord smiles on me, maybe a few people will remember that I sincerely, authentically loved them. If that happens, both Jesus and I will be smiling.

jeanne is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, and resourcer (visit youthleaderscoach.com for resources). She lives in Georgia.

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