How was middle and high school for you? If you are like most, it was probably really hard, even if it was good. Maybe you had good friends, maybe you didn’t. You were figuring out who you were among the pressures of expectations from family and friends and total strangers that you somehow wanted to please or impress.

As our team’s been recalibrating, figuring out what we should keep as we bump up with our guys from middle school to high school, I’m convinced that one of the words that should describe REV needs to be Oasis.

We need to be a breath of fresh air where the burden and struggles of every day life are lifted – even for just a bit. Where students can be who they really are – even if who they really are isn’t so sure about the Jesus thing.

We all need a place where we can be who we really are with people who really care about us. Period. Even more so when you’re 11 … and 15. Don’t you think?

I’m a really simple guy. I decided a long time ago that I only had two goals for being a leader. One, I wanted to turn outsiders into insiders. I want kids who are on the fringes, the socially awkward, the weirdos, the ones no one else wants. I want to choose the ones that have never been chosen. I want to take that ragtag group and help turn them into practically family. Not in a “Hey, sorry you couldn’t be in the cool group. Here’s your consolation prize.” sort-of-way. But instead, “We really care about each other.”

And that raises the question of how do you do that? And it’s through the second goal. I want kids to know Jesus. Or, as Flatirons puts it, to give everybody the opportunity to “bump into Jesus”. Authentic community can’t be found outside a group of people that are authentically pursuing Jesus. It can’t be done.

Because it’s only through Jesus that we “live and move and have our being.” Or, in AJ-terms, it’s only in Jesus that we find out who we really are and that we can stop competing and stop comparing.

Do I need to be the best leader? Do I need to always hang out with students? Do I need kids to like me? Do I always need to be the teacher? Do I always need deep and heavy conversations? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope … I’ve lost count of how many questions I wrote and how many nopes I need, so I hope that’s enough.

That’s why, I’m ok if we sometimes skip small group and go to Wendy’s instead. Or why I’m ok if we play some board game with waterproof robots and sharks instead of talking about the Bible.

Do I want students’ lives transformed by the power of the Gospel? Absolutely. But think about this: the Gospel boils down to three simple words: “Jesus loves you.”

And, how on earth is anyone possibly going to understand, at any level, what Jesus loves me really means?

They must experience it. First hand.

Leaders… Christians, this is so important for us to get right. Every time. You’ve got to know that you … YOU! are the demonstration of God’s love in the lives of others. You were chosen by God to demonstrate Christ’s amazing love in the lives of those around you.

So figure out the love language for the people you really care about in your life. If you lead students – at least if you lead boys – their love language is probably not sitting in a circle on the floor talking about their feelings.

People who were nothing like Jesus loved Jesus. Not because he was a great leader, or a great teacher, or an amazing communicator, or the Son of God. He was all those things. But people loved Jesus because Jesus loved people.

If you’re in ministry, you’ve got to do ministry with people you love. If you hate teenage boys, you probably shouldn’t lead 7th grade. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you love students, and you love seeing God work in their lives, live it out. Be interested in the things they’re interested in. (which sometimes means signing up for Minecraft, or Fantasy Football, or going to a high school football game. Whatever.)

My love will never compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing God directly. It can’t. It shouldn’t. But it can be a pointer. A reminder to someone that doesn’t know that God really loves them. It can be a breath of fresh air for people that desperately need to know that God still exists, and God still lives.

Go. Be an oasis for people who need a break from the rat race. Love people God loves. There has been no greater honor in my life than to have God love other people through my life. It’s something I never want to let go of.