I have been a youth pastor for nearly 40 years. This means I have discipled teens from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and now this current decade. This is a lot of teen boys who I have grown to love and see grow into good men.
The first time I was given a youth ministry responsibility, it was to teach a junior high Bible study. I was 18. It was full of boys and one girl. I must have done something well because that one class grew my responsibilities at that church and led to my call in full-time ministry. And—more importantly—three of those boys still talk to me today. The oldest is now 53.
Through a wonderful miracle story, a certain group of boys pursued me, separated themselves enough for me to hear God’s voice that these boys didn’t just need a youth pastor. These boys needed a mom. They eventually got a dad too when I married John. We are still raising these boys who are now in their late 30s. They have grown into some good men who are breaking generational sins.
I struggle to say I’m biased toward boys because I don’t want to ignore the plight of teen girls. I understand that plight. I used to be one. And I had a miserable teen experience. In the midst of my misery is when I met Jesus. During my last two and a half years of high school, I lived every moment talking about Jesus boldly. But it didn’t erase the great amount of rejection I received. I received it before Jesus and I received it after Jesus. I understand the plight of girls.
But I believe I am biased toward boys. I am still in contact with many graduated teens and those numbers definitely skew to be more boys (now men).
This also means I have high expectations for my boys. This list is my compiled, thought out, and prayed over list.
In my church youth group, every boy who joins and I sign this as a commitment to each other. My love for boys compels me to clearly let them know their boundaries so they can grow into the great men I believe them to be.
I expect you to be teachable. In other words, lay down your pride and be willing to learn from others, especially your parents and mentors.
We will have patience with you. You don’t know who you are growing into. We don’t know who you are growing into. But I know you are going to be a good man. God made you to be a good man. You will be confused. You will be confused and want to act out. We will have patience with you. You are on a journey, and I’m your biggest fan.
I expect your brain to grow. And grow a lot. Your brain grew a lot when you were two years old. It is growing that much again. Part of this brain growth is you will experience new emotions. Stronger emotions. All of those are real emotions. You will not be belittled for being emotional. But I do expect you to show respect when you are emotional.
We will be here for you through everything. Everything.
You have your parents. And you have your church family. We, of more-stable-adult-brains than you, are here for you. You are worth connecting to and we will stay connected to you all the way into adulthood.
I am not your friend. I am your pastor. These adults are not your friends. They are adults who think you are worth their time. You are worth our time.
I know God has a plan for you. You have what it takes to be a good man.
I expect you to ask your questions here. Faith questions. Scary questions for you to ask. I will be honored to answer them.
We will listen to you. You have something to say which will influence me which I promise to use to influence the entire church family.
I expect you to take on some honorable responsibility in this church family.
We will treat you as someone of significance. Because you are. You already are.
I expect you to like your parents because that is normal. Your parent will also drive you crazy. That is normal. We will listen to you about that too.
I pray for you to have a heart to know God. Just as it was said in Daniel 6:3 that an “excellent spirit was in him” may it also be said about you that an excellent spirit is in you. May you even be shocked by the wisdom you speak.
I expect you to respect others. Especially women. You will carry things for me. You will open doors for me. You are expected to extend the same gratitude and self-respect that you expect to be treated with. A man of respect is someone who others honor. A man of respect demonstrates his strength by choosing not to do certain things, such as intimidating others for no reason, bragging, putting people down, or resorting to violence or coercion as his first course of action.
I expect you to grow in compassion. To have a tender heart while living in this painful world. To be curious as to where God is at work in this broken world. To see others who are hurting and pray first for them.
I expect you to choose your friends wisely.
If your friends are jerks, you will not be far behind. Choose wisely. Consider how your behavior reflects your character. The truth is who you spend time with will influence your behavior. 1 Corinthians 15:33 has this wise saying, “Bad company corrupts good character.” It is true every time.
I expect you to pull your pants up. This is a look copied from prison. I know. I visit prison.
I expect you to look me and others in the eye and have a good handshake.
Here at church, we promise you are safe. You don’t need to pretend to be someone you are not.
I expect you to be smart. Not everyone is brain smart. Some of you have your brains in your hands. You are on a journey. We will find out which ways you are smart as I will always expect you to be smart. Not trying isn’t cool.
Schoolwork is not meaningless. It is your job. And you’ll always have a job for the rest of your life. Do well with your job now.
Failure will happen at some point. Failure does not mean you are unworthy of love and belonging.
Failure means you tried because you believed you were worthy. We will teach you that failure is a life value because it means you tried.
Life will disappoint you. People will disappoint you. You will disappoint yourself. That’s why you have parents and your church family to help you deal with those disappointments. You will not be alone in these disappointments.
I expect you to not swear. It’s not tough. It’s not cool. It makes you sound unintelligent.
I expect you to not photograph your private parts. The picture will end up in your grandmother’s Facebook feed, and I promise you, you do not want to go there.
I expect you to never watch porn. Never.
I expect you to live with honor. Making the most honorable decisions even when you could try to justify less than honorable behavior.
I expect you to be honest and tell the truth in matters large and small. Even when it is hard and it hurts.
I expect you to make wise decisions and wrong decisions.
I expect you to face many hard choices. Dealing with the hard things will grow you into a good man. But you must deal. You must make hard decisions. This will be hard. You are surrounded by people cheering for you to make these hard decisions, but it will still be you to make that decision.
You are important enough to make the hard choices.
God forgives. We will teach you, again and again, this great truth. This freeing truth that is unique to all faiths.
Life is hard. But hard doesn’t have to mean bad. You are actually hard-wired for struggle. This how God made you and me. You can make it through struggle every time, and you will always grow stronger. You will never be alone in your struggle if you will trust us to tell us when you are struggling.
I expect you to be bold in standing up for what you believe. Yes, Jesus is controversial. Following Him will cost you, somehow or some way. But I bet you’ll think it is worth it when you get to Heaven’s gate.
You were made to be loved, by God first and foremost. Nothing else will ever compare to God’s love for you. You are worthy of all the love you receive. Worthiness is your birthright. I love you too.
I will always treat you like you are adorable. Even when you are 53.