Blog/Community Loving Every Teen You Minister To by Kelly Colangelo I end every youth gathering with the following four statements: I believe in you. I am proud of you. I love you. There’s nothing you could do to make me love you less. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Acceptance. These should be foundational attributes in every youth leader. We walk into parish halls, meeting rooms, and youth rooms with an immense responsibility to find love in all of the young people we minister to and empower them to continue to find love in others. Some days are easier than others. Yet, we need to remember to love every teen we minister to, even when it’s hard. Love them when they let you down. Love them when you become their punching bag because you’re their safe space. Love them when they roll their eyes. Love them when they make bad choices. Love them when they are disrespectful. It is easy to get hurt when we see teens act out in selfish ways, especially when we care deeply about them and want to help them navigate this challenging time in their life. So here are some suggestions to help you continue to love the teens you minister to: Actively listen Active listening is making a conscious effort to hear, understand, and retain information that’s being relayed to you. Develop an interest in their interests Relationships grow when you are genuinely interested in the other person and care about what they are doing. Affirm Them Look for opportunities to affirm the teens you minister to. Encouraging words like “I’m grateful for your presence” or “I know you’ll do great things” help build confidence and deepen your relationship. Pray for them Teens face so much stuff! Commit to praying for them daily. Pray with them Don’t just pray for them in your own space. Pray with them. Out loud. Pray for their struggles, their hurts, their dreams, their friends, their futures. Don’t give up It’s easy to love teens when they are perfect and make good decisions…that’s not reality though! I don’t know any perfect teen. Life is messy. Teenagers are complicated, and that’s ok! The world is filled with stories of success that started with just one person showing love to another. Keep going. Don’t give up. Remember 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” When we decide to love a teen, despite what’s going on in their life, we have the ability to model Christ, to show them how to love others unconditionally, and to be selfless. To achieve this kind of love, we must first have a strong relationship with God ourselves and spend time with Him daily. I believe in you. I am proud of you. I love you. There’s nothing you could do to make me love you less.