The Power of Listening

“Thank you for everything, I don’t know what this year looks like without your help”

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Those were some of the incredibly affirming words I heard last Sunday night.  I had just finished sharing the news that God was calling me onto a new adventure and I’d be leaving my current call this July.  To no one’s surprise, my graduating seniors took the news the best – after all, they were moving onto a new chapter in their lives as well.  And they were the first out of their chairs to greet me and give me a hug when I had finished sharing the news.  After what had been an emotionally exhausting process, it was exactly what I needed.

But since that night, those words kept coming back to me: “Thanks for everything, I don’t know what this year looks like without your help”.  I’ve known this student in particular for quite some time and we had spent some serious time together this year talking about heavy stuff.  But I’m talking about a few hours – not days or weeks by any means.  Just a few nights after youth group was over.  Were they hard conversations?  I suppose some of them were, but the truth was, this student knew what he needed to do at every step of the journey.  He didn’t need major intervention or even hours of my time – he just needed some to talk things through with.  That’s it.  That’s all I did.  I made time for him, listened to him, and shared some honest advice along the way.

There’s one other piece of information that might be valuable to know: this student knew that he could ask me about anything.  And he did.  He felt comfortable and confident that he could talk to me about anything and I would listen and he wouldn’t face judgment.  Does that I mean I simply agreed with everything he said?  Definitely not.  But it did mean that his status in my life a “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) was never in jeopardy or question – and he knew that.

Let’s be honest – we all need other people – and teens especially need other people.  Parents are great and parents are super important (much much much more important than most of them realize) but that doesn’t change the fact that teens need adults who are willing to make time for them, listen to them, and let them know that bottom line, win or lose, that they still love them.

ClockAt the Orange Conference last year the fundamental question was posed over and over again – “What would happen if we treated every kid like they are made in the image of God?”.  While incredibly simple on the one hand, it’s also incredibly challenging at the same time.  My first response is this: We’d make time for them.

One of the worst things I heard from parents and students alike were “I know you’re really busy but if I could have just a few minutes of your time, I’d appreciate it”.  I hated hearing this because I knew that something about how I functioned gave the impression that I was so busy that people felt the need to ask permission and apologize in advance for asking for some of my time.  While that’s for another post, the point remained this – if it was one of “my kids” – I was finding the time.  My wife, God bless her, has done a great job reminding me not to spend too much time working.  But when it came to supporting one of “my kids” she never once called me out on investing too much time into their lives.

Time.  It’s one thing no one ever has enough of, but we can always find it when we need it.  The kids in our lives, in our families, and in our churches need our time.  They might be afraid to ask for it, but they need it.  In the busy-ness of life it’s so easy to assume that someone is ok, only to later find out they’re not.  Make time for the kids in your life – even if the don’t ask for it.  What last Sunday night reminded me is that it doesn’t take herculean efforts to make an impact in the life of a kid.  A few hours here and there, a good listening year, and the assurance that no matter what that I’d always love a student made a difference in this kid’s life.

And all it really took, was making time for them.

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