Remember when you were in grade school and you passed a note to someone, only to have it intercepted by the teacher and read to the class? That is an embarrassing memory, if that happened to you. These days notes aren’t being passed, but there are still things being shared via text message that would be classified as “inside conversations.”My philosophy is either bring us all inside or don’t talk about it in front of us. The same with bringing candy to class. If you bring candy, you had better bring enough for everyone!
We all have things we can and should share with each other.
We all have a story to tell, the story of our life. Everyone has a different story to tell, but fundamentally we all have a shared experience as people of God. In youth ministry, teenagers can be difficult to read and often are misunderstood as a result. I have had very few of them come up to me to initiate a discussion about what God is doing in their life. That being said, God is at work in the lives of our youth. This school year I have been having our student leaders prepare and share testimonies about what God has done in their lives. God has done many things, even in those who assume their testimony is nothing special because they weren’t former drug dealers changed by Jesus Christ. There are stories of God walking students through difficulties and questions. There are stories of family struggles and personal battles. As I listen, I am blown away with the things going on in their lives and in their heads as they process it all. I know I am not the only youth pastor who can sometimes get blank stares during a lesson. It can be a huge boost for me to hear a student share something that we had talked about in the past. Well, what do you know, they were listening!
We are meant to share with each other what God is doing.
In the group setting, having a structured sharing time has helped in a number of ways.
1- It has given our students leaders an avenue to step out in. What I mean is there are so many hands on type tasks that are easily accomplished by anyone. Students can set up chairs, take down dividing walls, clean up, set tables back up or any number of hands on tasks. A testimony makes them stop and think about what it is that God is doing in their lives and how they can communicate that to others. I don’t allow them to simply wing it, though, they need to write something down and show it to me prior to their turn to share.
2- It has opened up other conversations. I had two students come up to me after one youth group night to talk about a specific choice they were thinking about making. After they heard God’s word, they were taking a different direction. Having student to student interactions helps to open up those doors of communication. The communication becomes less one-sided and more community oriented.
3- It levels the playing field, so to speak. I had a student in tears one time when one of their peers shared. They realized that they were not alone in their doubts and questions. This is huge. I might not be that old yet, but I have been out of high school a long time in their minds.
4- It has given glory to God. God is the one doing work in them. God is the one helping them as they wrestle with difficult questions and school challenges. I am glad to be a part of it, but thankful I am not the only part of it. When students are writing their testimonies, I ask them to look at it to see if God has received enough credit. In other words, does this story read like it is you with God having some input, or is it God’s work put in you?
Part of the rationale here is getting students to take on ownership and leadership in the group. Community only happens as some of those barriers come down and students find that they are individually important, yet a part of something bigger than themselves.
Adults can learn from this also in small groups and other venues. Too many times people are unwilling to share what is going on in them. We need to hear it! You have questions, well so do so many other people. It would seem that great progress in faith could be had if we would truly live in a community. It takes effort and willingness to step out. God does honor it and people appreciate it.
The goal for our youth ministry is for our group to take on more of a sharing atmosphere. That means I will be able to ask the question, “What has God been doing in your life lately” and have students willing to share without prompting. I desire for them to be keenly aware of God’s work in them each day.
Let me ask you: What has God been doing in your life lately? Share with everyone.