Blog/CYM Blog

Arise and Shine: Luke 13:1-9

I have one regret from my ten years as a youth minister. His name was Danger. At least, that is what he told me to call him. He came to Life Night three times. He was rude to the leaders and a bully to his peers, especially David, one of our teens who had some mental challenges. Everyone loved David; all he ever did was love and was incapable of being mean to anyone. In fact, when someone hurt David or made fun of him, it just concerned or confused him. Consequently, David was an easy target for Danger, and he decided to point his arrow of rage at him.

At the end of Danger’s third Life Night, he bullied David relentlessly like he had been doing for two weeks. Teens were ready to take Danger out, so I stepped into the drama and pulled Danger aside. I told him we don’t treat each other like that at Life Teen. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong which heightened my aggravation. I asked him to think about his behavior towards David over the next week. If he were unable to apologize and be kind, he shouldn’t return. And he never did. He never even walked past the church again, and the church was on his way home. He avoided us altogether.

When I read this week’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9), I think of this one day in my ministry with Danger, when the fig tree got cut down before I even tried to cultivate the ground of his heart. I never sprinkled the fertilizer of mercy and forgiveness over him. I never even learned his real name or his parents name to reach out to them. I just gave up. I could try to justify it and say I was doing it out of the protection of David or even Danger since the teens in the youth group were ready to “take it outside.” But I know what I did, and I still, to this day, regret it.

As if reflecting on this week’s Gospel and praying through my Catholic guilt weren’t enough, I scrolled through Facebook this week and fell upon the video, “Every Kid is ONE Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story” by Josh Shipp. Every word he shared made me think of the teens I gave up on. I was not like Josh’s foster father who said, “You’ve got to get it through you thick head son. We don’t see you as a problem; we see you as an opportunity.”

All of us have Dangers in our ministry: teens that push us beyond our limits, teens who act like they don’t want to be at Life Night or Confirmation. Youth who make inappropriate jokes or bully others in the youth group, who attend Life Night just to get a date to the next dance. Teens who are crying out for mercy, forgiveness, and love but you just can’t see it hidden beneath their anger, rudeness, and disdain.

After Danger, I sought out the teens that were the hardest to reach more than the teens that would come to everything. I was not going to let another teen leave my ministry without experiencing the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Christ. I was going to make sure they knew I saw what Christ created them to be, not just the person they were play-acting. It became my mission.

So, who is your fig tree that’s bearing no fruit at this moment, but expressing real potential? Who is God calling you to cultivate a better relationship with today?

Make a list of teens that cause you and your Core Team the most drama, and devise a strategy on how you will minister to them. Involve their parents and find out what they love to do in their free time. Do some research into the extracurricular activities and show up at their events and games. We are called to see teens as opportunities rather than problems we must solve. When we do this, we begin to see the glimpses of breakthrough and openness, the changes they are willing to make in their life and relationship with Christ, and we begin to see Christ in them.

Remember, every teen is one adult mentor away from being a disciple of Christ. Once you believe this, empower your Core Team to believe it too, and eventually your teens will hear the call of Christ in their life.

 

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About the Author

Tricia Tembreull

Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a Texas-size heart for hospitality. She said yes over twenty years ago to God’s call to youth ministry and never could’ve imagined the adventures and people He had planned for her to encounter along the way. She serves as a Parish Coach for Life Teen and joyfully travels around the globe training, empowering, and praying with youth ministers. When not on a plane, you can find Tricia in a church, spending time with family and friends, in the kitchen cooking up something delightful, or on the beach for an evening walk.

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