Just Love Them

Recently the third season of the popular show Stranger Things came out to polarizing results. Some thought it was a return to form after a weak second season, but others couldn’t bear seeing the innocent children on the show grow up, form romantic relationships, and struggle with their feelings.
I don’t think Netflix viewers are the only ones to fear and otherize youth. I frequently hear things like, “I wouldn’t be good working with youth” or “youth don’t want adults like me around.” The first statement is rarely true, and the second statement simply isn’t true. If you can think of just one teacher, counselor, coach, or family member who shaped your life as a teenager, then you know youth need caring adults in their lives, and research shows this.
But recently, I heard something from another youth minister in the Diocese that I wanted to shout from the mountain tops for the whole world to hear: “Congregants don’t need to relate to youth, they just need to love them.”
Many of us (myself included) can’t relate to the influence of technology or ever-increasing pace of life for youth in our society. That’s okay! That’s why it’s even more important for St. Tim’s to come alongside our youth to love and celebrate them. Don’t worry about keeping up with their favorite memes or following their Instagram pages. As long as we can love on our youth, we can all play a part in impacting their lives and helping them grow.
Youth ministry this summer has been a blast, from obliterating the youth minister (me) in laser tag to finding God beneath the stars at the Great Sand Dunes. But these moments only happen when congregants come alongside youth to volunteer, mentor, and love. 
Modern womanist - African-American women - theologians have made incredible contributions by illuminating long forgotten theological truths. For instance, the only person in the entire Bible to ever name God, is an African slave woman, Hagar, who in her suffering names God “El Roi”, or “The One Who Sees Me”. 
As we work to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, let’s not forget to be His eyes as well. Let’s see what God sees, the suffering, joy, celebration, learning, hopes, dreams, love, and grace of the young people in our midst, as we play, learn, and grow with them in youth ministry.

John Putnam
Youth & Children Minister