Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may broke my bones, but words will never hurt me”, flat out lied.

Words do hurt and definitely matter…. especially when it comes to teenagers.  You would be surprised how much students in your group crave authentic affection and affirmation! In Playing for Keeps, Reggie Joiner writes that “a few select words over time can impact someone’s direction in life.”   Unfortunately, we live in a world where a generation of students is bombarded with negative images of what love and affection looks and sounds like. Sadly, they believe love can be found in a gang, the arms of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even abusive and dysfunctional relationships.

They have no idea what authentic affection and affirmation looks like.  All the girls want to know is that they’re beautiful and all the guys want to know is that they’re strong and masculine.  When they were little babies, they found comfort in being held and rocked. When they were kids age, they needed to be hugged and kissed.  And now as teenagers, they desperately need to know that they’re loved and accepted as they are.  Granted, not all students will receive affection and affirmation the same, but they all need to be reassured and reminded that God created them in His image and they matter to Him and to us.

As leaders, we need to always be intentional about showing our students how much we value them and appreciate them.  No matter how amazing your environment is or how organized your programming, you would have failed them as a leader and an influence in their lives if you were not consistently showing the love of Christ to your students.  Love is the one thing that will not cost you anything, but will give you the greatest return.

What are ways you’ve shown your few that they belong in your circle?

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Jeffrey Wallace

Jeff is nationally known as an urban ministry innovator and leader. He serves as Pastor of Youth Development at Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, where he oversees all of the children, teen, and young adult ministries. Jeff has produced several resources designed to empower and equip youth leaders, parents, and students in urban environments. He is the author of “Urban Ministry from Start to Finish” and co-author of “Everybody’s Urban” as well as “99 Thoughts Every Guy Should Know”. Jeff enjoys doing life with his wife Quovadis and three boys, Jeffrey, Christopher, and Cameron.

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