In 2005, a 14-year-old in Florida named Lindsay discovered that it wasn’t God’s will for local teenagers to be treated as outcasts because they couldn’t afford to replace their worn-out shoes. It couldn’t possibly be his plan for kids to be threatened by bullies because of their hand-me-downs and thrift-shop attire. And surely it wasn’t God’s will for homeless teenagers to feel unloved, unworthy, and hopeless because of what they were wearing.
As Lindsay paid attention to classmates, neighbors, and friends who were hurting, she found God’s will and placed herself and other volunteers in the center of it. She opened Taylor’s Closet, a store where teenage girls in need can shop for brand-new designer clothes for free. The store has already served more than 12,000 young people and given away more than $1 million in clothing.
What if we helped teenagers focus less on God’s perfect will for their individual lives and more on his will for people around them? Encouraging teenagers to do God’s will on earth will profoundly impact their actions—as well as their decisions about life after high school. We’ll see an increase in young people’s capacity to make an impact as global citizens now, not just when they’re adults.
As Jesus-centered, kingdom-minded leaders, how can we facilitate the kind of discipleship and mentoring that lead teenagers toward accomplishing God’s will on earth? It starts by giving teenagers awareness and opportunities to step out and experience life and needs beyond their own. We must curate communities that de-emphasize crafting a “successful” future for ourselves and emphasize the needs of others, whether in our own backyard or across the globe. Like Lindsay, if we commit to discover God’s will on earth and place ourselves in the center of it, we’ll be perfected by God’s amazing love.
In your youth ministry, consider discussing—and acting on—some of these areas:
- How Jesus defines love—and how to live it out
- The life Jesus lived (what he did, what he was about, what his living conditions were like, what he earned, and what that teaches us)
- What Jesus would do about current global and local needs (what they are, what nonprofits are involved, and how you can help)
- What Jesus would do about under-served communities (homeless teenagers, single-parent homes, and more)
During graduation season, as excitement builds for our youth ministry’s seniors, I’m celebrating who they are and who they’ll become. I pray their purpose and adult life won’t ever be defined or shaped by what they do for a living, how much they earn or own, or whether they’ve achieved success in the world’s eyes. I pray these young people know they’re a wonderful part of a global family charged to love one another as Jesus loves us. I pray they find community and opportunity to experience Jesus’ amazing love every single day. That love alone can guide these soon-to-be adults to look outside themselves to find and live in the center of God’s will.