Have you ever walked into a place where you did not know anyone? Do you remember what you were thinking? Just imagine this story:

The day before Wednesday night, you were invited by a friend at school to come to church. Your friend even gave you an invite card with a cool design on it. Even though you aren’t a “church person” you decide to give it a try. Your Dad begrudgingly decided to take you but made a few comments on the drive. He said, “you know son, churches are all messed up, that is why I don’t go. I think it is good you are going but son, don’t get your hopes up, most of the those people are hypocrites anyway.” As he gets out of the vehicle, he quickly notices the buzz of people whizzing by. He sees people smiling. He watches adult leaders giving high-five’s and fist bumps. He is unsure. He thinks, “Is this church filled with uncaring people? What will happen when I walk in? Is my friend inside? I wonder where I will sit? I don’t have a Bible, I sure hope nobody calls on me to read or pray.” He decides to go for it. He walks in the door as an adult leader welcomes him with the love of Christ. He begins to wonder, “Will I belong here? Will I find people who truly care about my life?”

You see, this is a powerful moment. We must always think like this student. If we become too focused upon the status quo of the ministry, we can easily miss the people who walk in each week who need the love of Christ.
The key to building an environment of acceptance is by meeting people at their point of need. Each student who walks in the doors of the church is loved by God. Every student matters to Him so much that the heartbeat of the ministry should be to meet them with the unconditional love of Christ.

Here are a few steps we take on welcoming students:

First impressions. In the first 30 seconds of the student arriving, the goal is for a student to have some type of interaction. Any type of welcome (fist bump, high-five, kind word and smile) is huge to ease the pressure when each person enters.

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Intentional Conversations. Some students do not have quality conversations. The intermittent attention spans of students are a result of our media saturated culture. We should make it a priority to have face-to-face conversations with students in our ministries. One of the goals should be for each leader to have 2-3 quality conversations with students each time. Whether it is a few minutes or if a student is pouring their heart out, the importance of an encouraging conversation is the key to building an environment of acceptance.

No One is Isolated. Look out for students who tend to isolate themselves and try to sit by themselves. Lead students and volunteers to always be looking for opportunities to build relationships with other students, especially those who are new.

Greeting team: We include a grade per month to come early and help the adult greeters welcome students. They help pass out information and encourage people as they enter. Each student has a name tag with “greeter” on the lanyard as well as adult volunteers.

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New students: They will receive a Source tube filled with random candy as a gift as they arrive. Inside of the tube also has a wooden coin. The coin has our logo and it is a $1 token towards the café.

Once a student has visited, I send out our first time guest postcard with a personal note thanking them for being our guest and some encouragement. On the postcard there is a note for them to bring back to receive a free Source Student Ministry t-shirt!

What tips do you have on welcoming students? Add to the conversation below in the comments!

Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at joshrobinson.cc or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson

As youth workers, our passion is to encourage students to walk in wisdom. If you are like me, you enjoy giving advice. There’s nothing like seeing a student’s face light up when they figure out the right thing to do.

Over the past few years of student ministry, I’ve noticed that how we give advice is just as important as what advice is given.

First, we are not their Savior. We are simply pouring the love of Christ into their hearts. So when a student asks a question and wants your advice…

You have a decision to make. You either muster up the most amazing, biblical, and thoughtful answer that has ever been communicated in all the history of student ministry! Or you decide to respond with a question.

If we lead students to discover what God says, we are leading them to trust God’s Word. The goal of student ministry is to help students own their faith long after they leave our ministries.

But what about if the student pleads with a pitiful, “Just GIVE me the answer!” Here are some tips on how NOT to give advice and how TO give advice to students.

HOW NOT TO GIVE ADVICE TO A STUDENT

Don’t respond with the answer, even if you know it. Let the question breathe. Now if they are asking if they can go to the bathroom (especially middle schoolers) you can give them the answer quickly (or you might regret it later!)

Don’t move on to a new question too early. Campout and unpack the baggage they are bringing to you. Ask questions that move from the surface to the heart.

Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers. We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. We all know we are but most students can easily put us on a pedestal. A good response to a hard question is, “I don’t know the answer but we can find out!”

Don’t be afraid of silence. Let the student sit for a moment and think. Embrace the awkwardness. I enjoy awkward moments but even if you don’t, learn to enjoy it.

HOW TO GIVE ADVICE TO A STUDENT

Do value their input. Do whatever it takes to value their input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong. Let them know you hear them but redirect them with another question. Don’t feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.

Do allow students to embrace the struggle of questions. The only way we grow is by asking questions. Help students know they can safely struggle through questions without pressure. Students want a heart relationship with leaders.

Do build upon the question. Reveal to them that it is a conversation and not a lecture.

  • I can see more of what you mean, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?
  • That is a great question, what do you think God might be showing you?
  • Why do you feel that way? What do you think you should do?

Do know where you are leading them. As you learn to master the art of the question, realize that you are simply guiding them towards God. As you think through a response, point them to their relationship with God through questions. As you fight the urge to simply give them the answer, ask a question instead to help them become leaders.

As youth workers, our calling is to lead students to help them grow spiritually in THEIR relationship with God. If we spoon feed students our knowledge, experience and biblical understanding, we can easily stunt their long-term growth.

Questions are more important than answers. Let students ask and help guide them towards the truth of Jesus.

What are your thoughts on giving advice to students? What about asking the right questions?

Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at joshrobinson.cc or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson