I am now in the habit of stalking my youth group members on facebook... not to see what kinds of mischeif they are into... but to remind them that they are amazing children of God.
I have often commented on the lack of respect among some of the youth in our community these days... but I have realized that it extends to (or maybe is rooted in) self-respect. Kids in this town just don't believe in themselves. Or rather, they believe the hurtful and negative things that come out of their classmates' and family members' and "friends" mouths more than they will believe what is inside themselves.
These young men and women are smart. They are creative. They are quick to defend someone who is down. They are excellent athletes. And they don't believe that they are worth anything. They spend too many hours a day getting yelled at or picked on or teased or putting other people down and puffing themselves up so that they WON'T have those things happen to them.
They really just need someone to remind them that they are loved.
That THEY matter.
That they are beautiful - inside and out.
That they have a whole lifetime of possibility in front of them.
That this particular guy or situation or game or mistake will not haunt them forever.
My top goal in youth ministry this next year is to respond to every self put-down I hear/see/read. I'm not going to let them get away with it. The world tears us down too much to tear our own selves down.
And even if they won't believe that they have anything to offer... I can remind them over and over again that that is okay, too. That God takes us how we are and makes us amazing. That even nobodies can be vessels for God's glory and power. In fact... being a nobody, being a misfit, being an outcast makes you perfectly suited for the work of the Holy Spirit. And that our Lord and Savior can take all of our pain and shame and anger and frustration and can hold it for us... can set us free and can help us really live.
Life is too short to belittle the love and the grace and the power of God that rests inside of me. too beautiful to ignore all of my special gifts and quirks and talents. I am a unique and wonderful creation, precious in his eyes. And each one of my youth are, too. I'm going to remind them of that...