by Luke Lang
Brothers and Sisters, youth ministry nation…I’m here to tell you about a super vital youth ministry life skill.
It is the steely, totally straight-faced, completely sincere-looking gaze.
Yes friends, you ARE going to need it! You need to be adept at this skill, you should be able to, at a moments notice, strike a pose that says “I’m fully engaged, but if I showed you how I truly feel, I would surely get fired.” That’s what the steely, totally straight-faced, completely sincere-looking gaze is for!
It’s the Blue Steel of the youth ministry world.
You probably ought to practice it at home in front of the mirror. Look sincere and unfazed, don’t let your lip quiver. Never let them see you sweat. Practice until you have it down. There will be times when you desperately need it. Trust me, brothers and sisters, there will be critical times when you really want to laugh, or cry or scream.
There will be times when you just can’t show any emotion…at all.
THAT is when you need the steely, totally straight-faced, completely sincere-looking gaze.
Sometimes you will want to laugh along with the 12-year-old making mildly inappropriate fart jokes, because he’s REALLY funny, but you just can’t.
Or when you have a talent show at camp and Oceans is performed acapella more than twice.
When the family that just bought an super expensive sports car calls and asks for a scholarship to camp.
When a Mom says, “Surely, you are mistaken! My child would never do that!”
When a church leader tells you that by painting the youth room ceiling black you have invited the spirit of darkness into your group.
When a kid responds with the phrase “deeznuts” to every question you ask in small group…
“So what was the greatest thing that happened this week?”
“Ok…I didn’t actually call on you. What is Jesus saying in this scripture?”
“Once again, I didn’t call on you.”
When the gluten free family’s kids hit the snack table and fill up their backpacks with Little Debbies as soon as their folks are out of the room.
When you encounter the angry parent who is pretty sure that it’s all YOUR fault that their kid who refused to talk to anyone didn’t make friends.
When the homeschool kid tells you that because her Dad was a youth pastor for six months roughly fifteen years ago , she knows what a youth pastor should do and that “You aren’t bad…well, you are bad, but you aren’t horrible.”
When, on a missions trip, one of your 17-year-old boys informs you that he has fallen in love with a local and she is coming back to America with him to get married.
When you talk to a person who just can’t understand why anyone would WANT to work with teenagers, and they say “Don’t you want a real job?” or “WOW! You only work 2 hours a week. what do you do the rest of the week?”
I’m looking at you with a steely, totally straight-faced, completely sincere-looking gaze.
But then there are times…
Sweet times when love breaks through and you can’t control the emotions anymore, you can’t fake the face because you are reminded why you do this.
When a parent volunteers long after their own kids have grown up because they love teens.
When a kid writes you a heartfelt note with a hand drawn llama or unicorn that says thanks for making a difference.
When you watch walls come down and kids fall in love with Jesus at a camp or on a missions trip.
When you see broken kids put back together and you simply can’t be straight-faced because raw emotions have reduced your face to tear stained jello.
Brothers and Sisters, youth ministry nation…I’m here to tell you THAT is why we are on this very wild, but very good ride. So have your cheesy grateful grin face ready to break through.
Luke Lang is a veteran youth worker, and the author of Soul Pirate Handbook: A Devotional for the Good Life