by John Park, UYWI
Repeat after me,
Love the Lord your God
Love your neighbor as yourself
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples
Love your enemy
God is love
The greatest of these is love
Love never fails
Love shouldn’t be a new concept for youth workers. In urban youth ministry, we share the message of God’s unconditional love through the Gospel of Jesus Christ with kids, week in and week out. We volunteer, serve and sacrifice for kids that are broken, fatherless and lost, all while doing everything to not burn out. We may do a lot but can we say we love God well?
I remember holding a volunteer meeting and getting a phone call about a runaway student, only to cut that meeting short to go and ‘rescue’ the student all in what I thought it was to love the youth we were shepherding. But the truth was my concept of love and loving God was rescuing kids, being their hero, sacrificing all I could for them and it was running me ragged. For me, I had it wrong. I had to ask myself, is this really the kind of love God commanded me to live by, because it’s making my life miserable.
The Greek word for love means to prefer. This means to love God, I must prefer Him, prefer His ways, prefer His truth and live it accordingly. In all I was doing, I was working in what I knew, what I thought was best and how I would want to do things. It’s wasn’t until I realized I just preferred myself under the guise of ministry and neglected how I was doing in my own love for God. What I needed to learn was how to love God well.
A youth ministry that loves God well, starts with youth workers who love God well.
As attractive and fun great programs and activities are for youth, what young people need most is to see and hear from youth workers loving God well. Stories of youth workers loving their neighbor, loving their enemy and being an example of Christian discipleship because you are preferring God’s ways over your own. Real life testimonies of preferring God’s standard of compassion, forgiveness, confession, mercy and justice are both worshipful to God and powerful for youth to witness. It changes the atmosphere of your youth ministry from observing Christian life to living Christian life.
So UYWI encourages you, the urban youth worker, to the best of your ability and by God’s grace, love God well and raise up this next generation to ones that do the same.