In our last article, Dustin Nance re-hashed the dynamics of conflict in the Teen Challenge context from our ELP Summit, challenging us in what can be our natural or first response to strong behavioral issues with our students. Many times, he explained, our students with strong behavioral outbursts have much more going on beneath the surface, and these outbursts need to be met in those moments with compassion and gentleness, not aggression and immediate correction.
To continue to expound on this ever-relevant issue in our field, we continue this month with more of what John Maxwell teaches on this topic. He calls it “Pass the Blessing, Please!” Oftentimes, he urges, people deal with difficulties beneath the surface because they are hungry for “the blessing.”
In Old Testament times, patriarchs of our faith would express “the blessing” in many different forms. Maxwell states that these occur by:
- Meaningful touch: Patriarchs laid their hands on their shoulder or embraced them.
- Affirming Words: Patriarchs spoke words of encouragement to them.
- The Expression of High Value: Patriarchs shared the value they added to others.
- The Description of a Special Future: Patriarchs used word pictures to share their potential.
- Genuine Commitment: Patriarchs committed themselves to see it come to pass.
As we can see, there are many ways to express “the blessing” to our students, or to anyone to whom the Lord has granted us of having influence upon.
I recall, as an ELC student, sometimes during our group devotions, one of our staff started the devotion by encouraging outwardly the person sitting next to him, verbally and publicly sharing of that person’s worth and specific value they added to our campus. After he was finished, he asked that person to continue to do the same around the room. It was incredible to say the least to watch what unfolded, and many times as one person would look to the next person they were going to encourage, oftentimes tears would come before words. What was happening? People were connecting with the value of those they were serving alongside. What would happen if we did this everyday, naturally? I would think. What would our campuses look like if this was the norm, and not the exception?
Of course, this helped cultivate an organic culture of encouragement and helped our campus greatly, and spawned individuals to gain clarity of their beneath the surface issues, helping the roots of behavioral challenges and unresolved conflict, which improved issues on the surface.
Of course, there are many ways, as Maxwell states, to “Pass the blessing” I would encourage you to learn even more the students and leaders you work with on your campus, quick to accept the responsibility to bless them often in the ways they are hungry for. As they say, we are in “The people business” and our highest honor is that we get to work with people, every one of them with dignity, value and worth. Our tasks and to-do lists are not more important than the people we serve and lead. They themselves are the primary objective, not our tasks, no matter how big they may seem. Every person receives affirmation and blessing in different ways, but where genuine desire to bless them is present, God is near to help us and lead us by His Spirit as we do so.