I am a wanted man.
When I get a request to sub for the 6th grade teachers at Arbor Creek Elementary (and I get them at least every two weeks), I know it’s because they truly want me there. I’ve been there so much it’s become a nonevent. I almost forgot until recently that many subs can have kind of a sense of anxiety when they enter new situations day after day. I don’t feel that at all with this team of teachers and group of students, because I want to be there and they want me there.
Although I’ll occasionally get a snarky kid who will “diss” me by playfully refusing a handshake (or fist bump, in our post-H1N1 world), students and other leaders are genuinely happy to see me at church and youth group. It’s not always that I can do something for them – I’m something of a fixture. They want me there. For the most part.
When I get a call out of the blue from someone to whom I casually mentioned my job as a video editor, and they want me to come in for a meeting to learn about what my business can do for them (and vice versa), I feel that my skills are wanted, valued, and worth maintaining.
When you are wanted somewhere, it makes you want to go there again and again. As the classic Cheers theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” (Man that was a great show.)
Flip that around. Do the students in your small group feel “wanted” when they show up? How do they know somebody wants them there? When they aren’t there, do you notice? Belonging is one of the primary tasks and values of adolescence, beginning with the crucial early teen years. If I am not bending over backwards to let kids know they are wanted, valued, and cared for, I am an epic fail as a leader.