The past year and a half I have been working with the youth of my church in various ways. I have been overly careful in everything I say and do in order to avoid being misleading or say the wrong thing. After all, one wrong word could ruin the rest of their lives, right?
Clearly overstressing in my carefulness, I think it is time to reflect on what my role is as a youth group leader before my biggest anxiety does more harm than good.
Teenage years are some of the hardest years of our lives. Teens thrive on making connections with people who are willing to listen and those they can really relate to. As they continually search for answers, am I really bringing them true peace? As they struggle with handling temptations, am I being honest about my own?
Pondering these things has led me to deeply reflect on the role God wants me to play in the lives of these young people. Putting on a fearful front that hides my own vulnerabilities from those who consistently tend to hide their own is not helpful. It certainly is not what God has intended.
The Message paints a beautiful picture of who we are to be as we walk alongside others. Matthew 5:15-16 says, “I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
My experiences are valuable and my true thoughts and feelings are exactly what youth need to hear. Sharing my weaknesses will not make them crumble or scare them away. God wants to use my experiences to build relationships and connect with those around me. There is real strength in being true to ourselves and others as God reigns steadfast in our hearts.
Katie Tenboer is involved in leading young people at Immanuel Reformed Church in Belmond, Iowa. She has a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in organizational leadership; she works for John Deere. “My Voice” shares the views and experiences of RCA women and men between the ages of 18 and 29.