Two days ago I read Relationships Unfiltered by Andrew Root. Dr. Root was so kind to offer a free copy of this book and I quickly took him up on his gracious offer. A professor at Luther Seminary, Dr. Root is one of those people I’ve kept a close eye on for advice and guidance on just how to “do youth ministry.”
As I read this book, I honestly felt as though I was reading all the things I had been trying to say to people about youth ministry but was never able to put into words. I knew in my gut that youth ministry was all about being present to kids – about living with them, sharing dreams, hopes and sufferings with them – but when I said it out loud, I had no “resource” to back me up. I mean, what do I really know about youth ministry? I’m not even 30 and have only been a “professional youth director” for about two years. But see, it seems common sense to me, and yet most of the people in our churches just don’t get it.
This book offers an incredible way to introduce prospective and current volunteers to their role in youth ministry. It’s not about having all the answers to questions teens ask. It’s not about knowing how to lead a Bible study. It’s not even about knowing the coolest bands, tv shows, or movies. It’s simply about being authentic. It’s about being who you are in every moment of every day. It’s about being in relationship with kids – not a distant relationship that separates the two of you as “adult and youth”, but a true, authentic relationship where you both understand each other to be beautiful children of God who can learn from one another.
There have been many kids along the way who have offered support to me in my times of need. A gentle smile when I was having a bad day, a playful punch on the arm when I was in a crabby mood, a soft “are you feeling okay” when I look sick. Teens have an amazing ability to sense when something is wrong and seek to make us adults feel better. But when we pretend that as adults we’ve got it all together, they see a false image of us and we aren’t truly in relationship with them.
In a different book yesterday I read this quote:
The single most important thing that can make a positive difference in the life of a young person is the presence of a caring adult.
I pray that I am a caring adult present in the life of young people. And I pray that I allow myself to truly be in relationship with them – that I suffer with them, celebrate with them, laugh with them, cry with them. And I pray that I am able to help other adults become present in the life of young people. That adults everywhere begin to understand that teens want the same thing adults want – authentic relationships – and that we can begin to bridge the gap that has existed between adults and youth in the church so that we become one body of Christ together.