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What Did We Learn?

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The crazy thing about New Year’s Eve parties is that one can tend to spend hours upon hours waiting for the teensy little moment when the clock strikes twelve—with all the wonder, hope, and anticipation that comes with this type of celebration—and yet hours later, when you wake up in the morning, refuse to be changed, refuse to be shaped and poked and prodded by the Spirit of God.

This year, I woke up on New Year’s Day with a different kind of attitude than usual. I was inspired towards change.

Monday night, as I sat my living room with 15 or so of my closest friends, someone asked a question that sparked a magnificent conversation: “So what did everyone learn over this past year?” What did we learn? Dude! Come on! It’s a party! Not some retreat in the wilderness!

And yet… that conversation led me to some new challenges and goals for 2013—things that I wouldn’t have thought twice about had I not had the opportunity to discern in community what I’d learned over the previous year. Among them, ironically, is a deeper commitment to listening to and learning from other people.

How often do we take the time to ask our communities of students, parents, siblings, and families… “what are you learning?” What do you know today about your life, faith, dreams, hopes, fears, and story that you didn’t know yesterday? Teenagers, as we all know, are sometimes not the most contemplative types. But they have deep, profound, inspiring burdens on their hearts and God is constantly teaching them new and wonderful things about their futures. Maybe we need to spend less time shoving “truth” down their throats and more time hearing what truths God is planting in their hearts and minds.

I asked a 16-year-old recently what he wanted to do after high school. A simple, out of the blue question that elicited a novel of a response. He started to share with me about his desire to study psychology, and to really get into the stuff of life with people, so that he can help them deal with their pain, move forward, and grow through the experience. Wow! A God-given vision for the future. This allowed me to celebrate with him, encourage him in that dream, and know how to pray for him moving forward over the next couple of years. Sure, his dream could change, but that five minutes of bright authenticity were an amazing time of exploring the story that God is writing in and through him.

Simple questions often have a way of inspiring great conversation. If we take the time to consistently ask the families we walk with in youth ministry what they’re learning, it is a catalyst for helping to shape their faith and lead them closer to Jesus. I see myself not primarily as a dispenser of great wisdom (heck no!) but as a coach, guide, inspirer and facilitator. Teens, parents…they’re smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. We can help them to vocalize what they’re learning, what God’s teaching them, and then come up with strategies and goals to pursue the things He’s placed on their hearts. What an exciting journey that is rooted simply in being in relationship with others.

How do you help students, families, and other to vocalize what they’re learning, and to press into what God has for them?

Photo by photos_mweber via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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