As you build deep relationships within your urban youth ministry, you learn their culture, and begin to adjust your expectations - you will make mistakes along the way. In fact, you will make significant mistakes against the urban youth and hurt them deeply because of your relational errors, your unloving attitudes and lack of control of your negative emotions. These mistakes can adversely affect the urban youth’s understanding of the love you have for them and negatively impact the trust you are trying to build. But there is a way to regaining that love and trust with them: you have to learn to apologize to the urban youth for what you did wrong.
By far, learning to apologize to urban youth is the scariest relational skill of them all. When we apologize to someone, we can feel that it puts the other person in power or control over us. We can apologize and take responsibility for our actions, but the fear can be: What if they don’t own up to their mistakes? What if they think that because I apologized, they think this conflict is entirely my fault?
Apologizing to someone we trust can be extremely difficult. Because of our fallen nature, it is hard for us to see where we have done wrong and how we contributed to a relational rift. Apologizing to someone we don’t yet trust to have a Godly response is even more difficult. We fear that they will use our apology against us, and that our repentance could prevent the urban youth from owning their part in the issue.
Yet in the world of urban ministry, where the main commodity is trust and love, apologies are like gold. Authentic apologies demonstrate our commitment to stay in relationship with the urban youth at any cost to our pride. They also demonstrate to the urban youth how to take ownership for mistakes within a relationship – most likely in ways they have never seen before.
One of the most difficult ways that an apology needs to come about is when an urban youth confronts us with one of OUR sin issues! Often, the urban youth will confront us in anger or in unloving ways about our behavior. As a conversation unfolds where an urban teen is pointing out your fault of having a short temper, you could be sitting there thinking: The gall of this kid! Pointing out my anger when they have so many issues and are so much more hotheaded than me. Or you take it for what it is, God using an urban kid to point you to excel still more in His love!
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
What about you? Have you needed to apologize to one of your urban youth? How did it go? Share your story...