I remember a conversation I had with my baseball coach on a cool Spring afternoon during my senior year in high school. He was talking to me while I was waiting on deck to take batting practice and like many of our conversations, this one had nothing to do with baseball. I recall him being personable and in a good mood, as he asked me some questions about my family, and whether or not baldness was a family trait.
He asked me if I knew the difference between a man who is balding in the front vs someone who is balding in the back, as he pointed to the top back part of his head. He was asking me because, although I was only 18 years old, I had significant hair loss in the front of my head.
He went on to explain that those who are bald in the front are thinkers. Those with baldness in the back are lovers. Finally, he smiled oddly as he said to me with his hand on my shoulder, those who are bald in the front and back think they are lovers. He was entertaining himself at my expense. And I never forgot it.
Funny thing is… I can’t remember a single thing he ever said or taught regarding baseball. Just that one time he engaged me in a one on one conversation and tried to be funny.
I can tell you a lot about the men and women in my life who have mentored me, and who have taught me the most about living out my faith. I recall their character, their patience, their wisdom, their kindness and encouragement. I remember little things like their teaching style, whether or not they were funny or animated or articulate, how they listened and responded to different scenarios. But I recall very little to nothing about what sermons or lessons they taught.
I think of all of the students that were a part of the ministries that I have led or taught over the years and wonder how many remember me because I said something flippant about their hair or what they were wearing… I grieve knowing I was sometimes careless with my words, much like my coach had been, and it likely caused some to miss the love that Jesus has for them and that I have for them.
I think of the times that I rushed through my notes because I wanted to get every point in. I did not realize that my best efforts weren’t ever going to reach the most enthusiastic listeners. So, I taught through my notes without considering 1 point or no points may have been sufficient on many occasions.
Teaching is about so much more than speaking and putting together an inspiring and powerful 20-30 minute lecture. It is about asking questions and listening. It is about guiding and encouraging. It is about being vulnerable and honest. It is about sharing your life with those you are entrusted to disciple.
Invite students out for 1 on 1 time over coffee or fro-yo. Invite yourself to their house for dinner with their family… and take yours if you have a spouse and/or kids. Go out to lunch with a students after church on Sunday or a late night snack after Wednesday service. Go to their games and concerts and productions and events. stay after and tell them how awesome it was. Make your home and your office places your students feel welcome.
When you share scriptures and truths from the Bible that God has put on your heart. Follow-up with some personal letters, emails, texts, tweets to individuals in your group to remind them and encourage them and to ask questions about where they are with what they are hearing and seeing and experiencing.
I guess what I am trying to say is that theology is best communicated organically as we live our lives. Practice what you preach and look daily for teachable opportunities. Not so much to preach, but to share and live your faith. This will require some creativity on your part, and it is a huge investment and sacrifice—which is fitting, since it youth ministry is a huge calling.
Don’t ever settle for being a good speaker or funny or well liked. Get out there and make disciples while being as real and honest and godly as you are capable of being.
1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ