As we are all in the process of helping our students deal with COVID-19, we have a super-important job to accomplish! At a time when the population as a whole is feeling insecure and scared, when public discourse has often degenerated into childish name-calling, when the high water of political anger has reached a new crest, when basic civility has eroded into entrenched partisan politics, it’s time our teenagers see a kinder, more grace-filled side of life. If that’s going to happen, a good deal of that burden will fall upon us, their teachers, directors, leaders.

As mature grownups, we can provide them that! When students encounter the community we operate for them – whether it is an in-person community or a virtual one, it is crucial that, whoever these students are and from wherever they come, they feel accepted and loved. Providing this type of safe space is not that difficult if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Kindness is such a powerful tool that it is highly effective even with social distancing in place!

It’s astonishingly simple the way Jesus loved, accepted, befriended. Let us not complicate the task by placing qualifiers on teenagers that Jesus never imposed on those he embraced and loved.

The music we made and will again make, the texts we sang and will sing in the future, the harmonies we remember, the rhythms that still move us — these are critically important tools to recall from our educational backpacks. The atmosphere of love, acceptance, joy, care, safety, and community — this ambiance is the key which gives everything else the opportunity to minister to the young teenagers in our care. Again, its very possible to provide this virtually as well as in person. This generation is accustomed from birth to this type of connection! The only challenge is bringing ourselves up to speed to where we can lead!

May we never forget to be attentive and intentional in our communities of acceptance!

May we always remember the abundance of grace we ourselves have received, and may we continually seek to bless our students with the same divine abundance!

Thank you for all you do to help students know and celebrate the love, compassion, and grace of Christ!

And yes, we will sing again. And when we do, the song will be much sweeter if we do our work of community-building during this difficult meantime.

Randy Edwards

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