Our number one mission in youth ministry is to share the love of Jesus with our students. We can talk about the love of Jesus or we can demonstrate the love of Jesus. We can tell them they are loved but unless we demonstrate love to them our words really are just words.
Here are 5 of the most powerful ways to demonstrate authentic love in youth ministry:
Listen. It’s so tempting to jump in with comments when teens share the things that teens share. But sometimes we youth workers need to hold off on offering answers and offer our ears instead. Let them talk and share freely. Listening is a great way to love teens. When we listen we give them a chance to talk it out, work through the details in their mind and the tension in their heart.
Respect. Teens want to be part of relationships that offer mutual and genuine respect. The golden rule pretty much does the trick here. Treat teens the way you want them to treat you. Listen when they talk, value their opinion and experience, and treat them like the adult they are growing to be, not the child they once were.
Relate. Students feel loved when we relate to them as individuals. They need to know that they are not just lost in the crowd. It starts by being invested enough to learn their name, praying for them, and asking God to pass the love he has for them to you. Enter their story.
Affirm. I strongly believe students feel loved when they are affirmed and celebrated. Think about the many ways God affirms and celebrates you. Never assume a student knows he or she is loved. Do everything you can to make it abundantly clear through affirmation. Every student in youth ministry needs the adults in their life to do more affirming and less assuming. Lets not make the mistake of assuming that every student knows they are love. Lets affirm every student with abounding love.
Invest. Give your time. Have a presence in the life of the teens you serve. It says “I love you” pretty loudly. One quality hour of listening, relating, and mentoring may be the equivalent of 6 months of youth group. Attend a student’s choir concert or game and make arrangements to hang out with their family afterwards for dinner or dessert. Invest your time by having a students come to youth group early to help you set up. Offer to have dinner there for them and make sure you have enough time to sit with them and eat and converse after you’ve set up. Invite a youth and their family to your house for dinner. This type of investment does take your time, but if you find yourself short on time, maybe you can evaluate where your time is being spent and how. You won’t regret spending more time with students and their families. You can say you love people, but making an investment of time puts words into action.
Think of one or more of the students you work with. How will you demonstrate the love of Jesus to them this week?