Chris Traeger is the ultra enthusiastic and constantly upbeat city manager of Pawnee, Indiana on the television series Parks and Recreation. He loves making people around him happy and is very direct with his compliments. Chris Traeger wouldn’t compliment a meal by saying, “This is really good.” Instead, he would say, “This is literally the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” If Chris Traeger ran into one Rick Lawrence in the hallway, he wouldn’t say, “Oh hey Rick,” he would say, “Rick Lawrence! Literally my favorite person on Earth.”
I find this overly positive and optimistic fictional character (performed hilariously by Rob Lowe) ‘literally’ the best thing I’ve ever seen, and I think Chris Traeger’s authentic approach to life is a great approach to youth ministry.
The Traeger approach to life and ministry involves saying the following three things whenever and wherever you can…and mean it:
“I love you.” Life and ministry stay busy. We all have a lot going on. But we should take the time to say this several times a day, because no one, I mean no one, gets tired of hearing these three words. They can bring light into the darkest hour. I’ve had the privilege of training youth workers around the country where I encourage them to make sure the students in their ministries know they are loved. I tell them to do this by saying it often and in as many ways as they can. People know it if you say it. And some of them need to hear it more than once.
“I appreciate you.” The more self-reliant we become, the less we appreciate each other. We can all do just about everything on our own, from finding directions on our phones to learning almost anything through a YouTube video. But we do need each other. We are part of a community. Sometimes the most positive force we have in one another’s lives is to simply appreciate each other. We need to more often recognize students and families as a gift from God and say it. “I appreciate you.”
“I enjoy you.” This is a classic Traeger-ism. Can you say that you really enjoy the students and leaders you are serving? For me it requires putting down my smart phone, taking a break from Facebook, and being present. Instead of allowing our minds to be somewhere else, maybe we can simply be with the people in the room and enjoy them. We can start in our own homes by turning off Netflix, putting down our phones, eating more meals at the dinner table together, and enjoying our families.
The Traeger approach will help us overshadow the fears and doubts our students have of not belonging or being loved. And maybe, more often than not, we can ‘literally’ experience heaven on earth.
Thanks for loving students!