Something to keep in mind if you have students coming back home for the holidays is the awkwardness they may be feeling with their relationships. Some kept their dating relationship going even though they were long distance because they attended school in different cities, or one stayed behind. They may be excited to see each other, but it doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t a bit awkward. There is a lot that happened in their lives apart from each other that, well, is simply impossible to share.
This awkwardness doesn’t stop with dating relationships either. It’s often there with best friends, their parents, and maybe even you. The fact is the last few months were packed with a whole new life’s pains, joys, confusion, and clarity. To try to articulate everything they went through is daunting, to say the least. I would recommend seeking out some time with those coming home for coffee or lunch, but I would also recommend some boundaries to keep up in your time with them.
Here are 5 thoughts as you reconnect with your students while they’re home:
- Ask direct/specific questions. Asking an open ended question like, “So, how was your semester?” is overwhelming and can lead to them feeling like they can’t connect with you. To think through and articulate everything in that short of time is too much, and your students can leave feeling like their life is too separated from you. I’ve found it’s much better to ask specifically about their roommate, favorite class, closest friend at school, involvement on campus ministry (or lack of), favorite or most frustrating class…things like that.
- Share about your personal life. You pursuing your students for a time of coffee or lunch is good, but it can come across as formal – or maybe even an “accountability time” from their perspective. This can be healthy, but I’ve found it’s MUCH better if you take the “pastor” hat off and share about you. Now is the time to intentionally begin to treat them like a friend, especially if they were in your high school ministry. This can really bridge any separation and kill any awkwardness they may be feeling about their “home church.” Sharing about your own struggles, doubts, family life, etcetera the better – as long as you don’t dominate the conversation!
- Ask for prayer request. At the end of your conversation specifically ask them for ONE thing you can pray for them about. This let’s them know they don’t leave your mind as soon as they leave, and let’s them know your relationship means more to you than just being a part of your job!
- Ask them if they’re encouraged. You could get a whole spectrum of answers on this one, but it’s a great question to ask. Some might break into tears, while others will simply be encouraged you asked. Either way, I’ve found it to be a great question to ask. It can also give you insight into areas where you can personally encourage them.
- Ask if any relationships are awkward for them coming back. Some will be more open about this than others, but you may want to ask them specifically how their relationship is with their parents, an ex, their best friend they had in high school, etc.