All of a sudden between innings the song “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber came over the loud speakers as I was sitting in the stands of a high school baseball game with a group of parents. By instinct I commented “Oh. it’s the Bieber!” I immediately drew the stares of my peers who quickly commented “you knew that’s Justin Bieber?” I replied – of course. The rolling eyes told me that while these parents may be my age, they may not be as keyed into the lives of middle school and high school aged teens music. You see if you hang out with and around teens enough you are going to pick up on things.
I recently heard a story of a priest who heads up youth ministry for a diocese who went to his spiritual director and the conversation came up about spending time with teens. The spiritual director made the comment – “If you’re a good shepherd your going to smell like the sheep.” Of course, the more you spend time with and around teenagers, the more you are going to “smell” like them.
This isn’t to say we will dress or act like teens, it’s more that as we reach out to form relationships with young people we are going to naturally start having more conversations about young people and an awareness of the youth culture in our lives.
- We are bound to talk more about teenagers.
- We will tend to check out TV shows and Youtube videos teens are talking about.
- We will pause and read news articles that have the word “teens” in the title.
- We will start noticing the group of teens standing in the store parking lot rather than just driving by and not noticing.
- We find ourselves talking longer to the teens working at the local store rather than quickly checking out.
- We start praying for specific teens and teens families we know.
- We start showing up at high schools to eat lunch with teens.
- We decide to take a day of vacation so we can go with the teens on retreat.
- We wear the rope bracelet that a teen made for us at a Life Night to work, even though it doesn’t match our business attire that day.
- We start attending high school plays to see teens we know perform, even though we disliked school plays when we attended high school.
- We start reading the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church more so we can make sure the teens we are journeying with don’t pass us spiritually.
- We find ourself in a ridiculous outfit for a skit, all because it’s for the teens.
- We stay up late editing a video for Life Night all because it could impact a single teen.
- We pay more attention to the things teens are “liking” on Facebook and “retweeting” on Twitter.
In essence, the more time you spend with the “sheep” the more you will smell like them. In your ministry as a shepherd to teens – Are you a good shepherd who smells like teens or would no one be able to smell a thing?