Last week we covered a first set of practical suggestions on how you can help urban youth turn negative life experiences into positive ones. This is an essential skill to see urban youth raised into leadership in their local context. This week, we will give you some ideas for your ministry team and your ministry program to reinforce these ideas.
- Equip your young people through relationships to embrace and build on negative life events rather than to avoid them. Traditional leadership development programs are often not sufficient to equip a young person to turn negative life experiences into positive life experiences. Though these programs have their place in the development of young leaders it is through a trust relationship with a mentor or trusted spiritually mature person that life shaping principles are grasped and then lived out.
- Be intentional in your programming to share stories of Biblical characters who turned “dung into fertilizer” and grew an incredible spiritual crop out of pain or injustice. Whether the experience was their fault or someone else’s fault they can turn sorrow into joy. Read with them the stories of Old Testament and New Testament characters who, when confronted with a catalytic life experience, made the right choice to trust God rather than their feelings or their street smarts. When these characters trusted the Lord or followed the counsel of the Bible, though life may have not gotten easier, they grew into men or women of God and were better for the struggle. (To assist your ministry team in this area, the National City Life Team has made available 28 new City Life Bible studies, Flipped -Turning Negative Life Experiences into Positive Life Experiences.)
- Young people need to see that pruning is the Lord’s process of shaping them into the likeness of His Son which is the goal of their faith (Ephesians 4:13). Their Lord will prune their life of the negative habits, attitudes, thoughts and actions that are either slowing them down or halting their maturity in Christ (John 15:1-4). Youth need to be reminded by you and your leadership team that “working through their stuff” is normal for the Christian who is moving from spiritual immaturity to maturity. They are not failures when they sin. Instead, remind them often to thank God for His forgiveness and then seek the advice of their mentor about how best to overcome their sin habits.
- Train your staff and volunteers to make spiritual and relational investments into the life of the young person during their season of struggle. Stay with the young person and don’t abandon them during this time of struggle. If your young people are to move from spiritual growth to ministry leadership they must have the equipment to embrace and then build on negative catalytic life experiences.
What about you? What tools have you found helpful in equipping your staff and volunteers to empower young people through challenging life experiences?
What thoughts or comments would you like to add to this conversation?