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Vision for Youth

When Micah was 12 years old I could not figure him out. He was brilliant and energetic. I liked him but he was disruptive at our meetings. He did not seem to take anything seriously. After some discipline problems, he quit coming for a number of months.

For me, trying to understand Micah was like looking at an out of focus picture. I could see some big shapes but had a hard time seeing how it all fit together. Over time things started coming into focus. I started to get a vision for him. God gave me an appreciation for who he is and an excitement about what he could become. God helped me to see a glimpse of how Micah is God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). As God gave me vision for Micah, I saw how God could use his personality. Instead of feeling annoyed by him, I felt excited about his potential.

Vision means seeing a positive possible future for a person or group. It is based on an understanding of God’s character. It should fit with scripture and could include direct spiritual insight from God. Vision comes from God. He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge.

You need vision for your kids. Many of your youth come from hard situations. Few in their families have a spiritual vision for them. Providing positive spiritual vision is an important part of being a spiritual leader. Start by asking God to give you an increasing vision of his power and goodness.

Leaders need vision. Vision will increase your effectiveness as a leader. Leaders without vision just go through the motions of serving. They have no purpose or destination. They are driving at night without lights. They are in danger of burnout. They tend to emphasize rules over progress and tend to write off problem youth. They tend to be annoyed at kids instead of seeing their potential. Leaders with vision are motivated and motivate others. They persevere. They are encouraging because they believe in the kids they lead. Think of the impact your leaders had on you, especially the ones who believed in you.

Kids without vision do not meet their potential. They waste time and energy. They are unmotivated because they do not understand God’s great vision for their life. Some feel worthless. You can make an incredible spiritual impact on kids if you learn to get vision for them.

Daniel 2 gives us a four-step pattern for getting vision. The world’s most powerful king, Nebuchadnezzar, demanded his wise men tell him his dream and interpret it. When they could not, he ordered that they all be killed. When Daniel heard about this he asked for more time. He and his friends were in trouble. Without a vision from God they would be killed with the other wise men. Daniel followed these steps.

1. Ask friends – The first step in getting vision for a youth is to get help. “Daniel went home and told his friends” (Dan. 2:17). Leading with a team is a gift from God. We are not in this work alone. Talk to your co-leaders about your young people. Get their insight. Work together to get vision.

As I talked to my friends about Micah, I started to see patterns. I learned that he was very relational, that he hates relational conflict and struggles when he thinks people do not like him. I learned that he avoided taking things seriously to protect himself from getting hurt. I was honestly surprised by my friends’ insight. I learned to be positive with Micah whenever I saw him. I also tried to be clear that I was glad we were friends, that I liked him, and that I wanted him to come to our meetings. He came back.

2. Ask God – Daniel did not just tell his friends about the problem. He “urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:18).

Working with kids is complicated. There are so many variables. What issue should you focus on first? How should you discipline? How are they God’s masterpiece? What great work has God created them to do? It is a mystery and we need God’s help.

I decided to pray for Micah. As I persisted, God led me to pray that God would make Micah a powerful spiritual leader. I felt led to pray that Micah would do big things for God and receive massive spiritual rewards for his faith. From what I could see, there was not much going on with Micah spiritually, but I kept praying.

3. Go to sleep – When did God answer Daniel? “That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision” (Dan. 2:19a). God’s answer came at night. God is not obligated to fit our schedule. He is God. He knows everything and answers when the time is right. Often his answer comes when we do not expect it.

Let that encourage you. You cannot manufacture vision. You do not have to figure it out. In some ways, getting vision is passive. You receive insight from the Lord so you can pass it on. The vision you have for kids does not belong to you. You are not given vision because you are so special. God will give you vision for youth because he loves them and wants to use you to encourage and motivate them.

Vision comes at strange times. It can come while you are studying the Bible, as you are praying for your students, or reflecting on things that have happened in your group. Suddenly something hits you and the pieces come together. You feel like, “This is it! This is the heart of what has been happening.”

Sometimes it happens as you are talking with other leaders or when you hear someone talk about a teenager in their group. You think, “That is it! That is what I have been missing.” Listening to other leaders can shed light on your group. Sometimes vision comes while listening to Bible teachings or praying with others.

Go to sleep. Quit obsessing. Keep your eyes and ears open for God’s answer, wherever it comes from. You cannot control when or how you get the answer. Draw close to God. Then as you go through your normal, everyday life, things will click and you God will help you make connections that are helpful for others.

Visit other ministries. Look at church history. Understanding how God worked in the past gives you insight into how he is working now. Read biographies. God uses certain kinds of people in predictable ways. You can get insight into your kids by reading biographies. It could give you an appreciation for a kid you do not value.

Hang out with visionaries. Some people get vision for others more easily. Use their insight and expertise. This is one of the joys of working in a leadership team. Most of the time, a shared vision is going to be better than an individual’s. Consider your youth’s strengths and weaknesses.

4. Praise God – When God answered, “Daniel praised the God of heaven” (Dan. 2:19b). Keep your eyes open. God will answer when the time is right. God will give you vision for your youth. When he does, praise him. Daniel praises God for his wisdom and his sovereign control over world events. He praises God for knowing everything and revealing deep mysteries.

As a leader, you need vision. You need supernatural insight into your youth but you cannot manufacture it on your own. God is so gracious. He gives us what we need when we need it, not because you are so spiritual but because he is so good.

Over time God gave me vision for Micah. Having vision for Micah made it so much more enjoyable to lead him. Communicating my vision for Micah was encouraging for both of us. Even though he was still disruptive sometimes, he started paying more attention and being warmer to the other boys. Instead of seeing him as a problem, God helped me see what he could become. A year later he volunteered to run a game at a party and did a great job. I told Micah I was proud of him and let him know that I saw God using his gifts to make an impact on others. After the party, he and a friend asked if they could teach at our Bible study. I was shocked when I found out he had been reading his Bible every day for months. I had no idea. It was deeply encouraging to see God answer my prayers even when I lacked faith.

Ask God to give you vision for your youth. Ask him to show you their positive possible future. Put yourself in a position to hear God’s voice and praise God when he gives you insight.

Youth leaders are attempting the impossible. We are trying to radically and permanently change the spiritual state of kids. That is stupid . . . without God’s power. God is going to use your words, your insight, your correction, your love, and your vision to mold them into the kind of people he wants them to be.

Marc Johnson
Youth Pastor

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