When I was a kid, I remember making my parents pretty frustrated from time to time and they would say many different things as a result, but not one of those words had more impact than the big D and I don’t mean Dallas (country music joke) I mean DISAPPOINTED. That word just seems to cut so deep and I just hate disappointing my wife, my family, and my students. Its unavoidable but being proactive to manage the expectations that students have of you will go a long way to feeling the wrath of the D word.
Here are a few areas that you can help students to develop reasonable expectations of you and the youth group so that we can under-promise and over deliver.
Time: Believe it or not, you do sleep, and you do not sleep at the Church. There is a limit to what you can do and how much time you have to spend with students and leaders. We probably all have what you can bluntly refer to as a “time suck” student who would love to spend every possible moment hanging out. Students in general covet face time with their leaders. The thing we need to help students understand is that they are unique, awesome and fearfully and wonderfully made, but so are the other 50 students in your group. Helping students realize that they are important, but are also 1 of your ___ students is important. Make the most of the time you spend with students but manage their expectations on how often and for how long you will meet.
Teaching: After disappointment, the next scariest D word that I have heard from a youth is “Deeper” — the magical land of greater knowledge, that is completely relative to each person’s own lived experience and previous learning, YIKES! We have our students for about 1/200th of their waking hours in a week, so its imperative that we help them realize that there is a limit to what we can teach them, and the limit to depth which we can go with such a narrow window of time. Ultimately they need to own the frequency and value of their spiritual disciplines and through that come depth of relationship with Christ. Having reasonable expectations of this will help them see that they own this process more than they are owed this process.
Taste: Try as you might, you are never going to make all students happy with your youth program. One week might be too fun, the next too serious, another might have too many new worship songs, or not enough small group time. I have heard every complaint known to youth pastors but here is the way we are trying to explain it to our students who express a dislike for what ever we served up that night. Imagine you are hosting a dinner party for 100 people, and you have to feed them something. You plan the meal, with foods that you feel most people would like, in fact 80% will probably really enjoy. It’s fresh, well prepared and good for you too! But the truth is that 20% of the people might not like what you are serving and some might not say, and others might flat out tell you. What we are trying to build into our students is that even though you might not like what was served, how great is it that 100 people are eating together and how amazing is it that for some, this is most nutritious meal they have ever had.
Helping your students have reasonable expectations of you and the youth group will go a long way to building a new generation of adults in the Church that are focused what they can do to invest in their relationship with God instead of placing blame on the Church for short comings in their faith.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.