We will soon be celebrating the most beloved and hated holiday in all of tween and teen-dom: Valentine’s Day.
During adolescence, it seems to become THE DAY when your friends, crushes, and relationships prove their love for you via candy gram or stuffed bear. Gone are the days for students when you knew all of your classmates loved you because cards and candy were required for everyone.
I still remember being in High School and buying a carnation for your favorite people for $1.00. My palms would sweat every year hoping beyond hope that someone remembered me while staring jealously at the popular girl who had almost 50 flowers. They still hold this same practice at my own children’s High School, and it is still a discussion every year. Yes, some will say it is a made-up holiday that Hallmark cards put on the calendar, right up there with National Donut Day, but it doesn’t lessen the emotional attachment for many adolescents. This leaves some flying with euphoria, while others will silently cry themselves to sleep. I would love to say a larger population of this age group “doesn’t care,” but even if they claim they don’t, well they do.
So here is where we as youth pastors ask ourselves what we should do, if anything, on this day of hearts and flowers. Should we acknowledge it, or let it slide by unnoticed?
Here is what I have noticed are some solid Valentine’s Day Do’s and Don’ts for the youth ministry world:
Don’t be cliche.
This does not have to be the only day you talk about love, or sex, or relationships. Next week or the week after does not have to be the day you decide to announce all things about love, and how they don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend because they have Jesus. It’s been done many times, and students expect it. Leave it there. You can approach the conversation on this day, however, the cliche is when it is the ONLY time you approach these topics.
Do use this time to remind students where their identity lies.
Students need to be constantly reminded about where their identity lies. It is stripped down and broken apart daily as they interact with social media, other people, and media in general. Now for “V-DAY”, they feel like they should be lovable by someone, anyone. Find creative ways next week to let them know Jesus genuinely always loves them, just because He made them in His image.
Don’t be creepy.
Please avoid sending notes and flowers from you alone to just the girls of the group. First of all that sends strange mixed signals on so many levels. If you are a guy leader, it is creepy. I know it isn’t meant that way, but as a mom of three young women, I would ask a lot of questions if my girls brought a rose home with a note directly to them from their youth pastor. I think it is just too easy again to send mixed signals if you only send anything “special” home to one gender and if it is from you alone.
Do be creative.
If you would like to give something out in honor of showing students they are loved make sure there is one for everyone, and any notes are signed by you and all the leaders. Don’t be afraid to be creative with games or a collage made out of candy. It isn’t that you need to ignore the day or go overboard in acknowledging it, but think outside of the box and try to find unique ways to let students know first they are loved by Christ, and second that your WHOLE team thinks they are incredible. Try something that never has been done before.
Don’t fear the corny.
Love letters from Jesus on Valentine’s Day? We can think as leaders with a deep groan, “Doesn’t that come off as corny?” It might. However, a letter that lists out all of the scriptures of the truth of what God really thinks of them is something a student maybe has never received. In the vein of being creative, don’t be afraid to try something that seems ridiculous (within boundaries of course) but points kids back again to what Christ thinks of them. Any way you can take attention off of them feeling like a “label” of boyfriend/girlfriend or lack of one defines them, try it. It might fail horribly, but as long as you follow the “Don’t be creepy” rule and the purpose is to show them how extravagant Jesus’ love is for them, you never know what might make a dent in their heart. Sometimes the corniest idea becomes the most memorable, which helps them see what it means to belong to Christ.
Whether we choose to “do” something or not on the big “V-Day,” students in your midst think it’s big deal, and the bottom line is that ignoring it doesn’t make that go away.
What will you do?