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Caught Not Taught: Lessons Students Must Learn from Us

We are embarking on a 6 part series of topics that we need to teach our students through our lives and actions. Students seeing them lived out first will bring integrity to the message we preach.

A few days ago I wrote a post about Conflict In The Internet Age and the growing reality of students who are lacking the skills or in many cases the desire to engage in healthy conflict or disagreement due to the messy nature of interactions like this. In addition to my previous post about a generation that doesn’t have to put up with anything they don’t like here are a few more considerations with conflict:

We Throw Away Things that Break

In my office at work I have a 1938 GE Console Radio. I love the craftsmanship that went into it. To think that every one of them was made by hand is amazing. No robots, not injection moulds, just hard working people putting tender loving care into it. My grandpa had one just like it and you know what he did if it broke or needed repair? He would load it in his car and take it down the road to the local radio repairman to have it fixed up. We used to fix things. TVs, VCRs, Toaster Ovens you name it, people fixed them.

Last year my printer ran out of ink, I went to buy a new cartridge and sure enough, it was cheaper to get a whole new printer with ink in it, so I threw away the old one. If my computer monitor breaks it’s going in the garbage. My ipod? Garbage. My TV? Garbage. My Jeans? Garbage. When things break, we throw them away. So are we surprised when a friendship breaks down that students simply throw them away for a newer, better one?

We Celebrate Conflict, but Rarely Reconciliation

Celebrity gossip and sleaze is a multi-billion dollar industry employing countless people whose sole job is to get the latest dish on peoples favourite celebs. Conflict may not make them famous, but it sure can keep their name in the press. This culture loves a good fight and some good ol’ fashion smack talking. We celebrate the conflict, but how often does our culture celebrate reconciliation?

We Need to Be Champions of Reconciliation

This is where we come in, where our lives need to reflect the values in Matthew 5 on forgiveness and reconciliation. How this is lived out will reflect our ability to be “the adult” when it comes to challenges with students. If there is a student you know who is frustrated with us, or with something we said we need to be on the front line of engaging them. Not because we want to be liked, but because like my grandpa’s old radio, it is worth the time and energy to fix it. Throwing it away might be easier, but the costs are high.

Students need to see how we handle criticism, how we handle an angry parent, or a leader who is not leading well. When it comes to students who have been hurt by other students, it is our responsibility to equip them with the tools and provide objectivity so that they can work out their differences. This could mean very persistent and intentional communication with both parties to help them see the value in meeting. We must champion this value.

So What Do Students See in Your Life?

Are you are the type of person that doesn’t get along with a lot of people? Are you a relational Tasmanian Devil going from Church to Church, person to person and not seeking to right your wrongs or ask forgiveness for your words or actions? Or are you a leader who can admit they were wrong, ask forgiveness of a student or leader when required. Are you a leader that will give up your time and make every effort to help a student navigate the deep valley of being hurt by a friend and walk them through a path of Biblical reconciliation?

We have enough of the first type of people, we need the second kind. We need humble leaders who aren’t perfect but can admit when we’re are wrong and whose lives reflect these values.

Are you modelling conflict and reconciliation well for your students? 

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Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!