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(3) Grace is the foundation of our relationships with one another.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as ministry leaders is forgetting that grace isn't just the basis of our relationship with Jesus; it should be the basis of our relationships with one another.
Let me be blunt: Christians are often really good at receiving grace from God (and gratefully accepting the gift of what Jesus did for us on the cross), but we are terrible at giving grace to one another.
Here's what Jesus has to say about the issue:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” -Matthew 18:21-35, ESV
Here's a question we need to ask ourselves about our own youth ministries: is the youth ministry I help lead a grace-full or grace-less place? Here are a few ways that you can know you might need a bit more grace in your youth ministry:
-Students rarely share about personal struggles with sin out of fear of being rejected.
-You sense that teenagers go out of their way to be someone they are not so that they will be accepted by adult volunteers in the ministry.
-There is a significant amount of discord among students in your ministry.
Of course, teenagers are human, just like adults. No youth ministry will be perfect or without discord, and do desire to have one that is perfect is an unreasonable goal. But there are some things we can do as ministry leaders to help our youth ministries be a grace-full place. We can love the teenager that continually gives us a difficult time. We can go out of our way to forgive students who might sin against us or deliberately disrupt an event by breaking just about every rule in the book. We can welcome everyone with loving arms who walks through the door of our church.
My heart for our youth ministry is that it would be a place where there is an unmistakable connection between the fact that we are saved by grace and how we grace-fully love one another. Because if teenagers don’t see God’s grace in how we treat one another, they may not understand that a free gift of life is available to them from a God who saves by grace.