Do You Practice What You Preach?

Imagine a conference room packed with…students. The overachievers sit near the presenter. Several techies hide behind computer screens. Others doodle on handouts.

Not much changes when you become a teacher. I’ve known teachers that hide novels beneath their handouts during professional development. Eyes roll back when we’re asked to “pair-and-share” or participate in an “engaging” group activity. And yet we’re offended when our students check-out of our lesson and opt to check Snap Chat instead.

Teachers, parents, pastors, and other youth leaders work tirelessly to raise children in the way they should go. Its’ not easy. Especially when you’re exhausted. Or frustrated with a students. Or butting heads with a coworker. Or destined for five o’clock traffic. Kid work (or any work) can be stressful work. Your patience wears thin until it vanishes. Then you’re snapping and yelling and doing everything you teach your kids not to do.

I get like this at the end of the school day. My chattiest class walks in and my patience walks out. I’m either easily angered or too lenient and counting down the minutes. It doesn’t bode well for me when I lecture them on the value of respect and the importance of integrity.

On Zach’s desk sits a brochure for the Orange conference in Atlanta (Andy Stanley’s ministry). An Orange Ministry belief is that “every child should be treated like they are made in the image of God.” The theology behind that is too heady for a Monday night, but it stuck with me all day long. How do I honestly view my students? Or Zach’s youth group?

When they’re younger, they try our patience with their high energy and endless quest for answers. When kids are older, we expect more of them. We expect adult behavior well before the age of eighteen. But children are children and though we must hold them accountable, we must hold ourselves accountable. If we expect our kids to build others up out of Christ-like love, we must do the same. If we expect our kids to speak wholesomely, we must speak wholesomely. Perhaps you’ve mastered this, but I am still learning that our actions speak louder than words, every time.

When my adopted nephew smiles exactly like my sister-in-law, I believe in the phrase “monkey see, monkey do.” And I am challenged today to exude the respect and love I expect of the youth in my life. It’s never easy. Daily I am tested, frustrated, stressed, or lazy. And yet, my students deserve a teacher that cares enough to practice what I preach.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to work with youth. Please help me to humble myself and to dedicate myself to modeling the values I hope my students will adopt. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Photo: A shot of downtown Charlotte, NC, the setting my my most recent professional development experience.

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