The Space Between: My Youth Ministry Soapbox

Within minutes, a simple yet loaded question sparked a conversation in a youth ministry group that I’m a part of—a group of people I love and appreciate. It was hypothetical in nature, but also pretty specific in application.

There were some differing ideas.

There were differing feelings, too.

But differences don’t worry me so much. I’m so glad we are not all the same.

What catapults me to soapbox status about this is the sin I see. It’s not in you, but in we. It’s in all of us.

When we spend hundreds of comments, hours of energy, and so much relational equity debating a theological position, we miss the kids that are our mission. We lose sight of them.

Because between you and me is them.

They are not our theological differences. They are the reason why we should be standing together. They are why we said yes to youth ministry.

Honestly, they’re a bunch of students really wondering if we’ll stand by them, even when their lives don’t necessarily look like ours.

And if we aren’t able to stand together, it’s no wonder they don’t trust that we’ll stand with them.

Yes, we all have different views. But as believers, aren’t we united by grace? Don’t we hope that grace fills the space that could propel us toward loving kids better or showing them that there is hope? Don’t we belong to each other outside of gender, culture, race, or denomination? Don’t we owe each other the kindness of loving each other so deeply that students could never question that we’d show the same kind of love to them?

My things are different than your things. I get that. But I believe that your things have things to teach me. And your life, designed in the image of God, speaks to my life in a way that only your life can.

So please, let’s share more life and fewer arguments.

The light truly counts here, friends. It flows through our veins and comes out in our fingertips, in our choices, and in where we choose to invest our time. I refuse to die without letting that light shine in my life.

Jesus didn’t come so I could argue for a lifetime. Jesus came to set captives free. To help us see what love does when it’s activated in community. Love sets people free.

Conversations are good, but we need to have them in spacious communities where it’s blaringly obvious that everyone is sitting in a pile of grace. Where we can see each other. Where we can show love. Where we can connect and understand.

Conversations are good, but we need to have them in spacious communities where it’s blaringly obvious that everyone is sitting in a pile of grace. Click To Tweet

 

If teenagers sit between us, let them see us laying down our defenses.

Let them see us spending everything we have for each other. Spending time. Spending love. Spending grace.

Jesus bought it all, and gave it everyone.

We can’t support parents if we’re stuck. We can’t partner with each other if we’re divided. We can’t be champions of the way youth ministry helps kids find a way to Jesus if we’re losing in a fight against each other.

The space between you and me isn’t a difference in what we believe; it’s what we have in common. They are what we have in common and the reason why we should be each other’s biggest fans.

My week was filled with Kacey, Merritt, Olive, and Robbie, all dealing with their own stuff. This week in our ministry, we have a high school student and his mom who need a place to live, a student grieving the loss of her grandfather, and a middle school boy whose cat accidentally got tangled in their Christmas tree …and died. (I swear that last one is true.)

Imagine what might happen to those kids if we couldn’t look past our differing beliefs to see them.

Love can shift where we spend our time. Love can build the bridge between you and me. Love makes a way for them. 

Love can shift where we spend our time. Love can build the bridge between you and me. Love makes a way for them. Click To Tweet 

Can we stand together in these messy trenches?

Because I love you. And if God’s love flows through your veins, I believe that means that you love me, too. I believe that we’ll fight for each other as we fight for the hearts of the students we love. I believe we can be the ones who show our students what it looks like to hold out our hands in the middle of our differences.

It might be scary. It definitely will be messy. But when our eyes meet and our hearts connect, we’ll find new ways to do things in the middle of our differences.

We can do this.

Orange Conference 2018