In North America, the bleak truth is that there are youth who are simply not acknowledged or heard—really heard and validated for their thoughts, insights, and understanding. God puts dreams and visions inside children, yet they often grow up and forget those very dreams. This often happens because when that little boy or girl tried to articulate them, they were automatically dismissed. Ministering to youth takes patience, time, and the ability to listen. Truly listen, so that you will be able to make deep connections.
It is Saturday morning, and I am off to pick up two of the students I work with for some quality one-on-one time at my house. At eight a.m. I arrive at Daisy’s house to pick her up, and she is excited and bolts out of the one-bedroom house she shares with her many siblings, mother, and grandparents. I leave my cell phone number with her mother in case emergency, and then we are off to pick up the second student, Jacqueline. Jacqueline’s mom answers the door after several minutes with a toddler in her arms. Jacqueline scoots out the door, and we are off. It is November, and the weather is gloomy. The two girls walk into my house and are amazed to hear the quietness. My husband had a meeting, so it is just the girls. We played Wii for a while; then I popped popcorn and we watched the majority of a movie.
Then it was on to art with some free drawing time. This is when their hearts began to open. I gave them each a TV tray with their own box of crayons, colored pencils, and markers and a seat on the couch. Slowly Jacqueline started moving her way closer to me until we were side by side. She began to ask deep questions about how I picked my husband and why I am married. I answered, and both girls’ ears perked up. Then I got to ask big questions about their hopes and dreams. I got to spend time with each girl and truly listen to her hearts’ desires. Then I was able to affirm their dreams, to give them hope. I will never forget the look in her eyes when I told Daisy that yes, it is possible for her to be a veterinarian. I remember her words to this day. “Really, you think I can do it? But my mother didn’t; she didn’t finish high school, and I just don’t see how it is possible.”
I told her, “It is possible! This dream was placed inside your heart.”
With a huge grin on her face, we took my little dog for a quick walk down the street and headed back home to prepare lunch together before it was time for them to go back home. As I loaded the girls up to take them home at the end of the day, their arms reached out to embrace me and gave me the tightest hug and said a big “thank you.” I didn’t preach a sermon or lecture on how to get into college or even talk about how to not do x, y, or z. I simply listened to their hearts, their dreams, helping them understand they have a voice, they are important, and most importantly, they have a purpose in life.
With a thousand things on my plate as a church leader, I have to make sacrifices and make it a priority in the ministry so that I will have the freedom to mentor students in my home, outside of the day-to-day youth ministry activities. It is in this precious one-on-one time where students become comfortable to articulate the dreams God has placed inside them and recognize their potential and worth as children of God.