Permit me to reveal the secret to really loving
For if I'm culturally hip to Hannah Montana and am truly smarter
than a fifth-grader, but have not love, I'm just irritable
chalkboard scratching. If I know all preteen slang, fashion, and
culture and hold a Ph.D. in preteen development, but lack love, I'm
an empty-headed fool. If I skillfully teach Scripture that moves
mountains of the mind but have no love to change habits of the
heart, my ministry is meaningless. If I burn my budget on every
resource, curriculum, or conference, and if I exhaust every waking
hour to become a respected expert in preteen ministry, but fail to
love kids, I've accomplished nothing.
Love is patient. It looks past
goofiness and gross talk. It suffers through immature attempts to
belong. Love models kindness, even when kids aren't kind. It
corrects misbehavior with gentleness and self-control. It blesses
preteens who only hear curses. Love is likeable.
Love doesn't envy greener pastures or better
situations. Real love stakes a claim, stands its
ground, and sticks to the plan. You may not have the biggest budget
or the most relevant resources; your class or church may be small.
Let God be God and trust his plan for ministry.
Love isn't arrogant. You don't always
have to be correct, first, or best. Love resists rudeness and
doesn't instigate revenge. It forgives kids who mock your fashion
and derail your lesson. It never answers insult with injury.
Love is completely selfless in nature.
It recognizes ministry as God's work, not yours. It sacrifices
time, talent, and treasure to become all things to every child so
you may reach even one. Love is slow to anger and never harbors
hate. When boys light your fuse, love quenches the flame.
When girls get your goat, love leads with forgiveness. Love works
without conditions, strings, or motives.
Love pursues truth. It honors
integrity and abhors insolence. Love protects the powerless, backs
the bullied, and helps the hurting. It won't tolerate flippant
insult or off-color humor. It relentlessly seeks God's wisdom in
teaching his Word and equips preteens to love and follow Jesus.
Love is hopeful. It doesn't see what
is but imagines what can be. It designs dreams in preteens' hearts
where only nightmares haunt. Love never retreats or resigns. That's
why love can't fail or fade. And neither can you.
For in the end, three things mark preteen ministry: faith, hope,
and love. And love reigns with preteens.
Rick Chromey, D.Min., is a contributing author to
Children's Ministry in the 21st Century (Group) and works for
the George Fox University Center in Boise, Idaho.