If repetition is the key to learning, then, when it comes to working with young people, keeping a big picture focus is the key to sanity. It’s so easy to get into a rut in which we tire of the repetition necessary to develop students.
- If you’re a parent, you perhaps tire of reminding your child to make his bed or eat his broccoli.
- If you’re a teacher, you perhaps wonder if there will ever be an evening when you don’t have to grade homework.
- If you’re a pastor, you may fight the frustration that tends to come with continually addressing immature crises in the youth or children’s ministries.
Sometimes we need to step back and remember the larger goals we have for our students. Our greatest aspirations for them are much larger than that they make their beds, eat their vegetables, complete their homework, or listen to their Sunday school teachers.
Ultimately, we want our students to enter adulthood with a heart for God and a surrender to His will. As we equip them with the skills to live a faithful Christian life, it is vital that we keep our eyes on the big picture.
I would suggest the following ten qualities as a great starting point for what we desire our students to possess:
- A heart for God—Nothing is more important. To love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength is God’s first commandment. (Mark 12:30)
- Grounding in biblical beliefs and convictions—They need to know more than what we believe; they need to know why we believe it. (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Love for the brethren—Without love for others, Christian ministry is meaningless and fruitless. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)
- Love for the local, New Testament church—Young people in today’s generation want to change the world. The local church is God’s vehicle to reach the world and effect real change. (Mark 16:15, the book of Acts)
- A heart for their parents—Parents need to intentionally tie heartstrings with their children, and teachers and Christian workers need to help their students keep those heartstrings short. (Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17)
- A heart for their pastor—As an undershepherd for the Chief Shepherd, a pastor has a vital role in a Christian’s life. Young people need to keep open lines of communication with their pastor. (Hebrews 13:17)
- Patriotism—American young people should know, respect, and express gratefulness toward those who have purchased their freedom. A student with a heart for America will also pray fervently that our nation will return to God. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- Biblical principles for decision making—When our students enter their teen and adult years, they need an understanding of how to seek wisdom from God’s Word and personally make wise decisions. (Psalm 119:105)
- Love for souls—The most valuable possession we have is our souls. Thus to love others as ourselves is to care for their eternal destiny and point them to Christ. (Mark 8:36; 12:31)
- A heart for worldwide missions—Our fleshly sphere of interest spans no further than what affects us. Spiritually-minded young people develop a larger picture—a heart for world evangelism. (Matthew 28:19–20)
This is just a beginning. I’m sure you could think of more qualities to add to this list.
But when you consider how to instill these—or any other—qualities in the hearts of your students, I would remind you that some things are better caught than taught! If you are leading a young person, you’d better practice what you preach.