Screen shot 2013-12-16 at 6.57.56 AMIn the last post, I shared how coming back home for the holidays can be a relationally awkward time for college students.  I also shared one idea for reconnecting with them: asking direct and specific questions.  And, as promised, here are 3 other quick ideas to reconnect with students while their home:

Share about your personal life. You pursuing your students for a time of coffee or lunch will likely be great, but it can come across as formal – or maybe even an “accountability time” from their perspective. This can be okay, but I’ve found it’s MUCH better if you take the “pastor” hat off and share about yourself. 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 can be a great next step for your relationship – 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! Periodically over the next few months make sure you send them a text message or six letting them know you’re still praying.

Ask them if they’re being 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. 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.

Try all of these methods with your students and let us know how it goes!

Chuck

Screen shot 2013-12-16 at 6.57.56 AMWorking in a church where most of your students go away to college can be bring some unique aspects to ministry – especially over the holidays. And even if “most” don’t move away, those that leave will likely be coming home over winter break.

So, what do we do to connect with them while they’re in town? Do we put an event together for everyone all at once or do we just try to connect with a few? Well, I’m not sure there’s a correct answer to that because I don’t think it’s an either-or issue. But, I’m assuming that you would at least be connecting with a few one-on-one. So, I want to walk through a few things we should keep in mind as we reconnect with students while they’re home for the holidays.

Relationships
The biggest thing to keep in mind is the awkwardness they may be feeling in some of their relationships. Some kept their dating relationship going even though they were long distance because they were living in different cities or states. 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.

And this awkwardness doesn’t stop with dating relationships either. It’s often with best friends, parents, and maybe even you. The fact is the last few months were packed with new experiences, new feelings, confusion, and clarity. To try to articulate everything they went through emotionally, physically and psychologically 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 at least four things to keep in mind as you reconnect with students while they’re back home:

Ask direct/specific questions. Asking an open ended question like, “So, how was your semester?” can be overwhelming and 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, or even if it’s a bit awkward for them to come back home…things like that.  These types of direct and specific questions allows you to really connect, on at least some levels.

Next post will list 3 more ideas…

Chuck



When I was young and single, spending time with students was simple and it was easily the best part of my job. But then I got married and we had two kids (third on the way!), and all of a sudden an evening with a sophomore meant a night away from my family. Juggling those commitments is the most difficult part of my job.

That’s why I look so forward to the second week of Christmas vacation. Students are past the Christmas craziness and I am too. By the second week of Christmas vacation, life has slowed down for me, and all of my students are still out of school.

Time to hang out! Scheduling time with students during school breaks is easy and fun. Lunches and hot chocolate breaks mean that I can spend most of my day with students and all of my evening with my family. It’s too important an opportunity to miss. Here’s how to make the most of this week:

Leverage social media like a pro.
Try this. Pick up a book. Go to the food court. Update your Facebook status to say something like this:

Hanging out at the food court until 2:00 p.m. today. If you come and hang out with me for twenty minutes, I’ll buy your ice cream!

Then wait.

Email parents.
Send an email to parents to let them know that you’re available and excited to spend some one-on-one time with students. They’ll be thrilled to get their stir-crazy child out of the house for a little bit and will take care of the scheduling for you. This is also a great way to spend some time with students who are too shy or uncomfortable to set up one-on-one time themselves.

Tell your staff what’s going on.
You don’t want someone to accidentally charge you a week’s worth of vacation just because you weren’t around the office. Explain that this is the BEST WEEK you’ll have all year to spend one-on-one time with students. That’s why you won’t be around and that’s why you won’t be available for meetings.

Are you missing out on the best week of the year to build relationships? Are you going to do anything differently in 2013?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministryto help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.