I am 52. I spent 25 years of my life directly investing in kids and youth.
I’ve had runaways living in my home. I’ve taken them on backpack trips, horseback trips, and mission trips. I’ve spent too many hours sleeping on buses, cleaning up vomit, bowel movements, and just about everybody fluid known to humans as well as some that remain a mystery.
I’ve sat with them at funerals, visited them in jail, and pleaded with school administrators on their behalf. I’ve tried reality therapy with gang bangers and mentored a kid who handed me his Doctoral Thesis at Harvard for advice. (I quickly handed it back because I couldn’t even understand the title page!)
I met one kid at 9 years old as he was chasing girls with a stick between his legs. Years later, after a long, crazy road where he tried on 1000 different hats, walked back and forth from his faith 100 times, and almost fell off the deep end, I watched him marry the daughter of a missionary and follow a very unusual path to minister to those on the edge of things.
I have worked with kids from 4 to 24. Kids with special needs, skaters, jocks, nerds. Kids suffering from depression, anorexia, bulimia, ADD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and past abuse in all its forms. I have watched them live well and die tragically.
So here is the one thing I know for sure. Culture changes. Gadgets come and go. The music fluctuates and fashion revisits us over and over. But one thing never changes. One formula always works.
Grace + Love + Time = Hope
Constant grace for all the moments they are less than. They need to know you don’t expect perfection. Discipline is about growth, not control. Don’t just punish, teach. And when you fail, acknowledge your need for grace as well. Apologize and show them you get it. We are all made of glass.
Active, tangible love. Not unearned trophies but the kind of belief in the face of their greatest failures that allows them to learn from defeat rather than worshiping success. Love that sacrifices before it demands and hugs before it hollers.
Finally, time. But I mean infinite amounts of time, hours and hours, days and days, months and months, years and years of time. Relentless Grace and Love overtime wins. It breeds hope in them when they most need it. Yet it also births itself in you when aren’t sure how things are going to end. Why? Because grace, love, and time are tangible things you can do when you don’t know what else to do. And they are far more powerful than you think
Hours of doing pointless things with great intention wins. Listening, hearing, and seeing overtime wins. Why? Because deep down that is one of their greatest desires. They want to be seen. They want to be known. They need us to hear.
In the Bible, God is called by different names. Each one communicates a unique quality of the Creator. A girl named Hagar once referred to Him as “LaHai Roi”, which roughly means “the living one who sees me”. She understood something about God we need to model for kids at every age.
There is a God. He is neither an idea nor a philosophy. We exist because He decided that we should. And LaHai Roi has great plans for us.
HE SEES US. Daily. Every waking and sleeping moment.
Our sadness. Our joy. Our struggles. Our victories.
HE HEARS Us. Even when no one else can or will, he is listening.
Our crying. Our laughing. Our anger. Our praise.
HE KNOWS US. Better than we know ourselves.
Our strengths. Our fears. Our hopes. Our doubts.
HE LOVES US. More than anyone else ever can or will.
Powerfully. Mysteriously. Wonderfully. Justly. Unconditionally.
There is a God. We are here because he has decided that we should be. He sees us and dreams that we will be everything he created us to be.
They need to experience this truth about God in you. They need to know that you see them. You see beyond the masks they wear. You understand them and desire to know them more. That you know their name, but more importantly, that you value that name. That takes infinite amounts of love, and grace over infinite amounts of time.
Did you know that 77% of believers come to Christ before age 21 and 64% before 18? If you want to build a church for the next generation, then it is critical to actually invest in the next generation, starting in your home and then reaching out to each child around your kids as they grow with the Grace of the Father, the love of Christ, and the time He has given you to invest well as a Steward of HIS children.
Looking for a community or someone to grab coffee with who is in a similar life season? We’d love to connect with you and get to know you better! Below you will find a few people that can’t wait to meet you, shoot us an email so we can make a plan!
Tyler OJ Campus
Teresa Ator: email@example.com
Bethanie Tayler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyler UB Campus
Max Heller: email@example.com
Chrisleigh Heller: firstname.lastname@example.org
Molly Pontius: email@example.com
Debra Kirby: firstname.lastname@example.org