Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia
Some might say I cared too much in youth ministry and I probably did. I cared so much I became angry quickly if I felt the youth ministry (the students) was being threatened and I cried too often at words that hurt me. But, it was this kind of caring that made my students list of the eight things they thought I was good at.
In my last post I shared that the students in my youth ministry always knew my end game: disciples. Sure I wanted the youth group to grow, but I cared (see what I did there) more about their lifetime commitments to the Lord than the size of the youth ministry.
As my kids put it, “I gave a crap”, and I did. I loved doing small things to show I cared, whether that was
- showing up in clown suit to sing happy birthday to one of my students in a crowed restaurant (I worked it out with his mother)
- planning a Mexican birthday party complete with a piñata while on our mission trip.
- or delivering flowers to a young lady at school on her birthday while her dad was stationed in Iraq
These things mattered to me. I love what my last pastor told me, “Do for one what you wish you could do for the many” That summed up what I had been doing for 30 years, but could not really put it into word.
Another form of caring I tried to show was empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I’ve always said, if you can remember your worst days in middle school you can be a good youth pastor.
In my view, the best of humanity is in our exercise of empathy and compassion. It’s when we challenge ourselves to walk in the shoes of someone whose pain or plight might seem so different than yours that it’s almost incomprehensible. – Sarah McBride
The trouble and challenges kids face today are not, at their core, too much different than when I was in high school. Sure the methods have changed but the temptations are the same, only more accessible.
At almost 51 you’d think I would have forgotten what a lousy school life I had being bullied or the amount of day dreaming I did to leave behind my alcoholic parents fighting. I hold on to these things, not with bitterness, but with the joy of knowing that God brought me through it. My survival sits as a trophy of God’s faithfulness in my life to show off to the kids I speak with at retreats and camps. If I can make it, you can too.
If you gave me a choice between having a high IQ or a high EQ (emotional quotient), I would choose the high EQ every time because as John Maxwell says,
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
Next, Part Six: Engagement