“But we’re just kids. What do you expect?”
His words were meant to deflect my challenge and excuse whatever behavior I had just called out, which I honestly can’t remember, and I’m sure was nothing terribly unruly. Instead, they did much more than that. Instead of bringing me to a more enlightened position in regard to the teenage propensity for goofing off, Dave helped me realize most people didn’t expect much more from him and his peers than just that. Because little was ever expected, that’s what they usually delivered. Dave and his friends were great at goofing off! They were some of the funnest kids I’ve ever worked with.
Yet they were so much more.
Most of my greatest memories in ministry involve this particular set of boys. They were so much more than “just kids”; they weren’t “just” anything, they were the church, full of the Spirit and the power of the Creator! These kids were a blast to be with and incredibly smart, as well as sensitive to other people. They were caring and willing to sacrifice and were spiritually aware of what God was doing around them. Although, they didn’t realize all that until someone helped them stop seeing themselves as “just kids.” When expectations were raised, so was their desire to grow. They no longer were content to play around at youth group for a few hours a week.
One of the most important things your ministry with boys can do is raise the level of expectation in their lives. What are you asking of them? What do you expect? We need to expect our students to step up to ministry, not just to a trough of ice cream sundaes in a rain gutter. We need to expect our students to share the water of life with their peers, not just drink soda through a sock. We need to expect our students to feed themselves from God’s Word, not just come eat pizza.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to scoop ice cream or buy a large pepperoni pizza than to do the hard work of equipping boys for the work to which God calls them. That’s where we need to raise our own expectations of ourselves. Parents may be happy if we just keep their kids out of trouble. Boards may be pleased if we can just manage to keep the memorial carpet free from stain or blemish…but we know there’s more. We know that a ministry with young guys that pleases God can’t stop at “They’re just kids.” We have to help them be the church in action on His mission.
They’re not just kids. They’re His. Dave soon gave himself fully to God. Just a few years after defining himself as “just a kid,” he graduated from our ministry with a whole new concept of who he could be. After graduating Bible college, Dave has gone on to be an awesome youth minister, taking his own students deep into God’s heart for serving their community as His ambassadors. I’m not surprised.