(Welcome to our youth staff meeting. For more info about the 5 Essentials click here.)
Today is the day that students gather together at school flagpoles across America to pray. See You At the Pole is a great annual event. As I went to bed last night I was reminded of a See You At the Pole event from about 6 years ago.
I had not been a Youth Pastor for very long. I had been working very hard that school year to develop relationships with some teachers in a local high school. I had challenged our students to get involved in their schools like never before and some rose to the challenge.
A couple of the students really took it to heart and actually organized the SYATP event at that school. This was a great thing. I was so excited. The students from our youth group asked for me to speak and also to bring my guitar to help lead worship that morning. I was so excited. This was our first big opportunity to make an impact on this school campus.
I can remember going to bed the night before excited about the upcoming day, then you know what happened next....
I woke up and looked at my clock which was blinking 7:40, 7:40, 7:40, 7:40.
I had slept through the alarm that morning and had completely missed the See You At The Pole event. When I woke up the students were already in school.
Of all days to oversleep! I felt horrible. I had missed a great opportunity to make a difference on a high school campus. And most of all, I had let the students down. I felt like a failure. I was so disappointed in myself. The chances are, if you have been in ministry more than 5 minutes, you know that feeling.
You know what it feels like to make a mistake along the way. I am not talking about sin. I am talking about the times we have not been the greatest leaders. The times we have not fulfilled commitments. The times we have missed opportunities. The times we have let students down along the way. The times we have slept in. This speaks to the reality that we are all human. There will be times when we make mistakes.
So, what do we do? We keep be real!
Be real when you make a mistake. Be real when you let yourself and others down. This is one of our key essentials to leading students because it is all about authenticity. The greatest way we lead students is not through our perfection, but rather through our authenticity.When we are real we allow students to see themselves in us. Saying, "I am sorry" is not a bad thing. Telling a student, "I don't know" is not a sign of failure, but of honesty and vulnerability. When your students see you being open like this, they will be more likely to do the same.
Here are some principles to keep in mind:
1. When you mess up...fess up - Sometimes you have to make the hard phone call like I had to that day to students that were counting on me. I told them that I was so sorry and that I felt so bad. Sure, I was the leader, and I really did not "have" to give them an explination, but I wanted to be real with them and say that I was sorry. Through being real with them and showing my sincerity they gladly forgave me and we saw God do great things on that campus that school year!
2. Share your life...appropriately - Give students permission to be who they are by being comfortable in your own skin. Share the stories from your life with them. Share mistakes and miracles; sadness and success. However, do not dump the dirt of your life on students. Make sure you share appropriately in a way that is edifying to students. Don't continually talk about things that you used to do before you came to Christ in such a way that it appears you are proud of what you used to be. Remember, we are dealing with students that are very impressionable. We must be sure to obey 1 Timothy 1:4 and not minister questions to students. Seek to share your life in a way that students gain answers and not just more questions.
So, let's keep it real. Some days we do accidentally oversleep. Just keep going. Don't be discouraged. Be encouraged. Just set your alarm again and keep it real!