When it comes to teenagers and college students, I am pretty good at seeing through the facade they put up. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t put up some sort of a front so people will see them differently. I believe it’s something of a survival technique for people.
I used to pride myself on being able to see through them and it has been a very useful skill to have in many situations. On a number of occasions I have called a student out on faking something based on what my “crap detector” was telling me. It’s really helpful to be able to tell when a student wants to be on the leadership team because he likes to be in control rather than be a servant leader. For a long time I thought this was the greatest tool I had in my ministry utility belt.
Over the last few years I’m finding that it’s good to see students for who they really are, but it’s infinitely greater to see students for who they CAN BE.
When I look at a student and only see them as they are now I am only focusing on the present and assuming that they will stay the same. I am discounting the grace of God that works in their lives to change them and bring them closer to perfection.
By only looking at who they are I am choosing to ignore the very person I am trying to connect them with. I am ignoring that Jesus saw potential in all of his disciples and invested in them. His focus on their potential put their failures and shortcomings in perspective that allowed him to continue to invest in them.
This change in my attitude has been subtle for me and monumental for the students I work with. When I talk with them or even discipline them, it’s all in the context of who they have the potential to be. They know I believe in them and that I want them to succeed.
They desperately want someone to believe in them and their desire to do great things. If we can focus on who they can become rather than who they are now, I think we can really make a huge impact in the lives of the students we serve.