I was sitting with youth during a candle time discussion, a small group that simulates deep, cozy, campfire discussions. Their description of what it sometimes feels like to be in school was profound. As soon as the group was over, I had to write it down.
“Navigating school? So many kids at our school are like magnets, drawn to drama, quickly joining in, echoing judgments, passing on gossip, and forming negative opinions. As high school students, we constantly walk this line of making choices that won’t make us stand out, because if you do stand out, you quickly attract critics.”
Wow! I couldn’t believe how articulate and painfully honest these youth were. That is a tough culture to navigate daily. My question, “How do you change that culture?” and “What do you want to replace it with?”
My answer, “We train and support Peer Ministry Leadership youth and young adults who create the countercultural opposite. Peer Ministry Leadership groups learn to look for the good in others, become gift-namers, become encouragers and cheerleaders for people of every social class, ethnicity, sexual preference, and varying abilities.”
Looking for and naming the positive has become countercultural. Countercultural? I feel a bit of sadness using the word to describe positive gift naming. I forget how radical Jesus’ messages of love, grace, peace, and hope are. They are certainly not the norm today. “We love because Christ first loved us.” (I John 4:19) Even religious people are drawn to the drama of judging, proclaiming who is in and who is out, more concerned about being sin-managers than grace proclaimers.
What gets attention gets repeated. As Christians, we have a ministry of changing culture to one that loves, affirms, uplifts, and names the good in life. We cheer people on. We give attention to people’s gifts so they will be repeated.
Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God. (Psalm 46:10) I keep coming back to Eugene Peterson’s interpretation in The Message. Coming out of the traffic is coming out of the crazy busy-ness! The culture of critics! The echoes of judgement! I hope Peer Ministers become people who provide an oasis of relational interactions, where coming out of the traffic is about life-giving acceptance, listening, uplifting, encouraging, support, respect, and trust.
See the resource, DEALING WITH REAL PEOPLE <LINK>