On the wall in the youth room hangs a framed print of Matthew 18:20. In simple type-face it reads “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We purposefully chose that scripture for the room as a reminder not only to us, but to our students, that whenever they gather in that room, the Lord is there with them.
Almost instantly, it became clear to us that our students today are craving two things: to be known and to belong. Our prayer is that through their time as members of the Youth @ HCC, they feel both of those things and more.
John 10:14 says that our God is the Good Shepherd, that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. While this is comforting to those of us who are experienced in our walk with the Lord, so many of our Youth today (not just the ones at HCC) don’t know what it means, or understand how it feels, to be truly “known” by someone/anyone, much less the King of the Universe.
When we hear from our students that they’ve felt rejected, that they struggle to maintain real, true friendships, it breaks our heart. But we are reminded that our Jesus suffered and felt the very same things. In these moments when they confess to us that they feel alone, we are hopefully able to come alongside them and tell them about a Father who truly knows what that feels like. He sees them. He’s with them. He knows them.
When students tell us that they haven’t found their place in school or that they’ve gone to many churches in their short lives because there hasn’t been anywhere that really “fits” them, it makes us want to be even more adaptable, more hospitable, more welcoming and loving. All of us have been there before – walking into a crowded room, not knowing anyone, and wondering immediately what they’re deciding about us before we utter a single word.
Our encouragement to students in Youth struggling with these feelings of rejection, is to remind them that when it feels as though no one wants to be near you or with you; when you’re excluded and left out; when you’re the last one picked for the dodge ball team and you’re sitting along the sidelines of life, there is One who wants to be with you SO MUCH, that He sacrificed His one and only Son so that we might live.
He doesn’t want or expect anything from you – only for you to seek after Him and be in His presence. Psalm 147:11 reminds us … “He takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love.”
We cannot pretend to know in this moment how long the Lord has called us to serve as the youth pastors here at HCC. However, we do know that for the time being, we will focus on doing our best to ensure that our students know this is a place where they belong and where they are known.
When two or three (or more) of them gather together in the youth room, the church van, or our living room, He is here among us and it is through His power and Holy Spirit alone, that students in HCC Youth will be known & belong.