Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears… 2 Timothy 1:4
Have you ever heard somebody say, “I love him, but I just don’t like him!”? I’m not a big fan of such sentiment. Those whom God calls us to serve should be those with whom we form close emotional ties.
Paul invested in his young protégé Timothy for years. Together they forged the Gospel trail throughout Asia and into Europe. Together they faced the challenges of persecution at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Together, for almost three years, they helped to establish the great church at Ephesus.
No doubt they spent many long hours not only mutually laboring for others, but also sharpening one another. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” These men had invested their time in each other’s lives; no wonder they possessed such warm affection for each other!
As leaders in our respective fields, we must not underestimate the value of simply spending time with those whom we lead. Even in the ministry of Jesus, we find Him often seeking respite from the crowd in order to spend time with His disciples. Love means many things, but near the top of the list, love means time.
I’ve had the opportunity to interact with quite a number of youth ministries, very few of which I would rate “superior.” Of those few ministries that made a lasting impression on me, I always found a leader who loved (and liked!) his people and sought to spend time with them. The perceived need to detach from followers in order to somehow maintain a “respectful distance” has been aptly labeled the “mystique mistake” by a good ministry friend of mine.
When is the last time you had the group over to your home? Do you look for ways by which to spend time with those to whom God has called you? “I’m already out of time!” you may say. May I humbly suggest that if you do not have time for people, your ministry priorities are askew.
Why don’t you capture the time that you already have? Don’t eat lunch alone. Take somebody with you when you preach as a guest somewhere. Utilize modern technology to stay connected in appropriate ways. Determine to schedule your “people time” before you calendarize your other priorities.
And during those regrettable times when you simply cannot be with the ones you love, tell them you wish you could! Paul “greatly desired” to see Timothy, and he let him know that. Our teens need to know that they are on our hearts and in our minds even during our absence from them.
You might be thinking, “My kids know that I love them, and I’m sure they understand that I’d rather be with them than almost anything.” In this age of rampant insecurity, you’d be surprised what your kids don’t know! And don’t discount the fact that the enemy is constantly at work to chisel away the foundations of godly relationships. Communicate your love! Often. Emphatically.
If your philosophy is, “The ministry would be great if it were not for the people,” you should probably consider a different occupation—like an Antarctic explorer or something.