During my recent trip to Cuba, I conducted a research project about compassion for the lost in the lives of adolescents who participate in short-term mission trips. It was a quick study that yielded some interesting results.

One of the most important things that I learned in my research was this:

A mentor or pastor is important to help adolescents develop the compassion for the lost by helping them see people all around them who need to know Jesus. Compassion for the lost is not something that automatically happens in the lives of young people, but it can be influenced by the life of someone else and the prompting of a pastor or group of friends who will help them see what they are missing as they see others and interact with them.

When Jesus tells his disciples to pray for laborers (Matt 9:36), he is demonstrating his own compassion for the lost and helping them increase their compassion. Good mentors and youth pastors will help young people see the opportunities all around them, and their own compassion will deeply affect the adolescents to whom they are ministering.

Too often we overlook the fact that our job as pastors and mentors (and parents) is to help cultivate compassion for the lost in the lives of those around us.

As we walk and talk, teach and disciple, we need to include compassion for others in our conversations. We need to remind our children and our students that God loves the brokenhearted and is seeking to save the lost–and he wants to use us to introduce them to Him. Just putting them into a position to do something that is service or mission related is probably not enough. We need to use those experiences to launch into conversations that revolve around compassion and caring.

My hope is that as a parent I can have compassion for those around me and teach my children and others to see the world as God sees it–and to have compassion on it as He does.