I love the craziness of large groups where I get to see a bunch a students at once. I love mowing through giving hugs and high fives and randomly having greeting tribal dance offs with students. haha Another element that I love is having one on one time with students where we get to talk about Jesus and life. I think for a lot of youth workers this is an area that they may struggle with or not be as comfortable with as they want to be. I wrote a post a while ago that deals with the importance of why these three things matter to me. Go here to check it out!!! So I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned that has helped me in one on one situations.
1. Take Control - Even though you want the student to share more than you, take control and facilitate. You will probably start off making small talk which is great and sometimes the only thing needed, but sometimes you want to guide the conversation to an area they may need to get some guidance or prayer. I’ve found that students expect you to stir the conversation. I’ve also learned that my influence in their life grows, when I show genuine concern for the good and the bad in their life. Here’s an example of something I’ll do: Instead of just asking them how’s life, I’ll say let’s have a seat and then I’ll be specific about the areas I want to hear about. You will be surprised with the response you get. If they don’t have time I’ll say “great, let’s get together this week or I’ll say “I’ll catch you on Facebook.” I’ll leave a message with specific questions for them to answer. Again, you will be surprised at the response. Just a caution: when communicating over social media always think about context. My rule of thumb is “communicate as if their parents are sitting right by their side as they read what you’re sending.
2. Use Discernment - Every time you get the opportunity to talk one on one with a student consider it a golden moment. I’ve learned that you can burn that moment very quickly if you are not discerning of when to push them and when to let it go. Every conversation doesn’t have to be a come to Jesus moment. Like I said, sometimes small talk is all that’s needed and you need to be able to discern that. You also need to be able to discern when they need to hear the truth of God’s word.
3. Pray With Them – I know this sounds like a no brainer but I don’t think we can stress this enough. What we pray for with our students sends a signal concerning what God cares about. If we only pray about the big stuff with them then we are modeling that God only cares about the big stuff. God cares about the test they have that’s stressing them out. God cares about them performing at their best for a game that they have. He cares about it all. We need to model that to them. So look in all areas in which you can pray for them. I always hear people say God’s got bigger things in this world to care about than my little situation. I always wonder who modeled such a small view of God to them.
I could’ve listed more but I really wanted to zero in on the top three things that helps me get the most out of the time I spend with students. I have a lot of fun hanging with students but I also know that they need more than just fun. They need Jesus and that’s the primary assignment God has given me being in youth ministry. So what has helped you connect with students better?
hope it helps