Tag Archives: words

The danger of affirming words

1337706956_WordsAre our encouraging words harming the teenagers under our care?

 In my last post I talked about the important role our words of affirmation play in the development of the teenagers in our care. I talked about how young people have too many voices speaking into their lives and how we need to provide a more impacting voice that speaks a deeper truth.

 But was I wrong?

 In “The Godbearing Life – the art of soul-tending for youth ministry” Kenda Creasy Dean & Ron Foster (p.65) talk about the dangers of affirmation. When comparing our affirmation to the story of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce her role in the incarnation of Christ in Luke 1:28, they say that

 “The danger comes when we stop with Gabriel’s opening line (greetings, you who are highly favoured) and fail to deliver God’s message in full. Right on the heels of God’s affirmation comes God’s invitation and expectation. Despite all the positive messages we send to our youth, affirmation without invitation or expectation subtly tells teenagers “We don’t really expect much of you or ourselves because God loves us no matter what”. In the face of abject rejection, anonymity, and powerlessness our words “you’re great”, “you’re special”, “you can do anything” ring hollow to suffering youth who simply conclude ‘grown-ups lie’.”

 How often have you been guilty of this: affirming a young person with hollow words, without following through with invitation and expectation to live out the affirming reality we see in them?

 When we fail to follow through with our affirmation, we run the danger of falling into a ministry of feeding a young person’s narcissism. We build up their ego without building their character. We give them lots of fluff about how great they are without actually helping them to live out that greatness and help them see it for themselves.

 

If all we give teenagers are nice words of encouragement, are we actually setting them up for a fall? 

 But it’s more than that as well.

 God created the young people under your care for more than feeling good about themselves and having a good self esteem. He created them to accomplish great things. He calls them into his ongoing redemption of the world.

 If we simply encourage teens and help them see the potential that is in them but don’t direct that potential with an invitation and a challenge, we leave open the possibility that this potential be directed in any manner of ways, sometimes with dire consequences.

 God created us for a reason, there is intention in his creation of young people. There is an invitation in knowing Christ, an expectation to live out – in all its fullness – who God made us to be. If we encourage kids without inviting them into this new way of living, we are simply setting them up with over-inflated egos that will either be expended in selfish and hurtful ways or, even worse, never really amount to anything, which will render our words empty.

 

How can you not only speak new life, but also invite young people to live this new life?

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Speaking words of life

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We just ran our annual youth camp around the key theme of identity. This is such a huge topic for young people and something we feel we needed to speak into with the truth of Jesus. One very powerful activity we did as part of our worship night was to speak words of life and a new identity in Jesus over each of the students.

The leaders had been praying for the students all week and discerning what they felt God wanted to say to them concerning who they really were, their true identity in jesus and how God saw them. These words, phrases, and bible passages were then written onto a small mirror and given to each student by their small group leader as the leader spoke these words of life over them and prayer for them.

We had a number of students reflect on this activity as a highlight for camp and some said that they had never had someone say stuff like that to them before.

It was great to be a part of, but also saddening to hear that some students had never had words of life and affirmation in who they are and can be in Christ, spoken over them.

This is one of the key gifts we have as people involved in ministry to young people, we have the honor to be able to speak a new identity in to young people’s lives. Help them see their life and world as a bigger and brighter place. It is our job to release them into the potential God has for them, and to help them see themselves the way God does.

There are two ways you can do this.

1. Organise a little something where you formally speak words of life into each young person in your care. This might be in small groups with their leaders. I might be something you do on your own. This depends on your setting. But make it a big event where you give each young person a new identity and affirm who they are in Christ.

2. Set yourself a weekly challenge to find opportunities to speak words of life into the young people you regularly come into contact with. Just pull them aside and tell them that you really want to encourage them with who you see God has created them to be.

The power that these words can have in a young persons life will be immeasurable. These are things that will stick with them for years. If your really praying about it and discerning Gods voice for these young people, you will be speaking truth that will cut to their core and make a bigger impact then you could even imagine.

Lets do a little life bringing together.

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