I think sometime this concept can easily be forgotten. A lot of times we know the answers to a student’s problems before we know the whole story or the cause of the problems. So we stop listening and we start focusing on our response. We start trying to lay out our response so that it touches the very core of the issue. Meaning we are trying to recall every sound bite that has had a high impact in our lives. We want what we say to touch the students so much that they start to cry and scream out “ I’VE HEARD THE VOICE OF THE LORD AND I AM FINALLY ON THE RIGHT PATH”. Haha….
So what’s the issue with that?, you might ask. Well, one point I made earlier is that you stopped listening. The very thing that the student needed you to do, you stopped doing. When we intentionally sit and listen to students, we say to them that they are more than just someone broken in and needing to be fixed. Listening intentionally to a student says to them:
Someone cares about me.
Someone thinks I’m important.
Someone thinks I’m worth their time.
Someone cares about my feelings.
Listening intentionally will earn you the right to speak the truth of God’s word into their life. I advise when meeting a student for the first time that you are going to give guidance to, that you don’t even give any guidance on the first meeting. Allow the first meeting to set the tone for the rest of the meetings. Here is how you listen intentionally:
Listen with great eye contact and body language. It makes a difference.
Ask questions about the things they really care about in the situation. Even if you think it’s silly or shouldn’t matter as much as it does.
Affirm when you can. You never know how many people have already made them feel stupid, crazy or ashamed before they spoke to you. Affirming them doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It just means you validate the fact that the issue they are going through is something that should be dealt with.
Start and End with prayer. Let them know that you are working on behalf of the only one who can actually help them. God changes the heart.Ezekiel 36:26-27
The bible talks about how we can do nothing without Christ.John 20:15:5 If you really think about it that should take a lot of pressure off of us, knowing that we have to rely on Christ to power and orchestrate the life changing work we get to be apart of. We are just vessels being used by God to spread his love, mercy, kindness and grace to students. I’ve learned that when I don’t remember this I screw things up. Because my focus is not on doing my job as the vessel, it’s on being the power source. The vessel’s job is to house the power and give it something to do. So when we try and be the power that changes people lives we frustrate ourselves when things don’t work out the way we think it should.
There has been times when I have forgotten that God changes the heart, and I feel the burden to be perfect in that moment so that students are changing. I must rest in the fact that God wants to use me to do one thing and that is to spread the gospel (God’s message of love) to students. He did not call me to do his job (which I can’t even do in the first place). So I would encourage anyone in ministry to be at peace knowing that changing the hearts of students is not your job. God commissioned you with sharing his gospel (God’s message of love).
I have had the pleasure of revamping our volunteer youth group leader program. I can’t tell you enough how awesome it has been dreaming about how to make our weekend youth group services more relational. Now, I know that youth group volunteer leaders are nothing new. Probably every youth group has some form of adult volunteers serving in their youth ministry. I definitely applaud and commend any adult who takes on the task of being a leader in youth ministry. It can be tough at times, as students can be everything but friendly and open.
When I first begin this process I looked at our current program and kind of surveyed a few other ministries. I really felt like we were all in the same boat in terms of expectations and the actual duties of the youth group leader. The model consisted more about the leader being comfortable, present and available. Leaders were asked to do the setting up and the labor of the youth group more so than the connecting with students.
So I had an idea to challenge our leaders to be proactive in connecting with students. Instead of them waiting for students to approach them, they would approach students. I definitely understand how hard it is so I basically trained them on how to approach new and core students. I created a simple four step model for them to use. The four steps are greet, meet, connect and pray.
Greet – We want to greet students. We will greet students instead of wait in a corner for them to come to us. We will reach out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to us.
Connect – We want to make sure that we are intentional about our conversation with students. We want to look for ways in the conversation to suggest a next step. For new students we want to guide them towards community. That could range from life groups to serving opportunities within the ministry or summer camp. You can even suggest grabbing coffee, lunch or ice cream with them sometime. For students who are already in life groups, you can suggest serving in a ministry, missions or summer camp. We want to make sure students are getting connected.
Pray – We want to pray for students. While you are connecting through conversations, once an area of struggle, pain, disappointment, hardship and trial appears offer prayer. We want to avoid saying “I’ll be praying for you”. Pray for the student right there on the spot. Even pray for the core students you already know that have been met, greeted and connected. Go deeper in conversation and pray for them. Just because they are a part of our core students doesn’t mean they have everything together. Every situation will be different but when the opportunity presents itself feel free to pray.
I also added a small after service snacks to slow students down so that we could have a chance to connect with them. I explained to our leaders that success would be just getting to greet the students. So if you walked away from your service and all you were able to do is say hi to students then I consider your time at service successful. Never underestimate the power of hi and a smile when the intention is to show God’s love to someone. The great thing about it is that most of the students will be back the next week. So now you can build relationships with those students who you have already greeted. If the leaders have the privilege to move on to the next 3 steps then I would consider that a bonus.
Yes, this definitely stretched our volunteers so it’s important that you stress the difference between what success is and what’s the added bonus. Success being the hi and a smile, and the bonus being meeting, connecting and praying for students. We launched this last weekend and it was a great success. Our leaders rose to the challenge and did an awesome job. The very site of leaders proactively greeting, meeting, connecting and praying for students was super encouraging.
I believe the key to volunteer leaders being able to really move forward in the 4 steps with confidence is making sure they feel and students know they are fully apart of leadership. We are doing 2 things to make that happen.
Our leaders were introduced from stage so students would know that they exist and would understand their purpose. This gives the leaders license and confidence to speak into the lives of the students and spiritually lead them.
They will also have the opportunity to be a part of the service (could be a video, announcement or handling communion). We want students to know that they are a part of the student ministry leadership team and getting to know them is just like getting to know staff.
How does your weekend leaders differ or resemble this process?
Share with friends, you never know who might need to hear this!
We all struggle with things. Some are huge and complicated while others are minor in comparison. When I was younger I used to stutter. I remember times when I would have to say my Easter speech in front of people or even just talk to friends and it would take such a toll on me. I would pray that I would never have to say anything that would cause me to stutter just because of the pure embarrassment it brought me. Sometimes I would want to jump into conversations so badly but I didn’t because I was afraid I would stutter.
I remember a time when I was in a fundraising wedding and I played the part of the groom. I was super excited until I was handed what I had to say. It felt like I had swallowed a dumbbell and it hit the bottom of my stomach. There was no more excitement and for the next 3 or so months I obsessed over this one word “PLEDGE”. It hurts to even write it…haha. I started brainstorming ideas on what to do about this word. I figured maybe I could change the word to something that I could say without stuttering, but no other words fit that I felt comfortable saying. Also, I knew I would have been asked why I wanted to change the word and that would’ve been too embarrassing. I even thought about not doing the part, but I liked the girl who was playing the bride so I couldn’t do that. So I went on a quest to conquer saying this word.
Just to give you an idea how bad my stuttering was, I would be in tears if I had to get up and say anything in front of people. My heart would pound so loud I could hear it and see it coming through my shirt. That’s how crazy it was. So on to my quest to say this word. I would say the word to myself all day long and then find ways to bring it up in conversations with friends. I don’t know how, but I could feel the stutter coming on before I would say the word. For some crazy reason I would be in a great conversation and go to use the word and I would feel the stutter coming up. So I would immediately stop myself from saying it. This thing was a huge struggle for me.
Finally, I was exhausted at trying so many things and failing miserably that I decided to pray and leave it in God’s hands. I did and he came through. When I got to the pledge part I said it!
The first thing that came to my mind was “why didn’t I do that in the first place?”. Life would’ve been so much easier had I made the choice to give it to God first. Although my struggle wasn’t something I was causing upon myself, the same formula applies. This is because whether you are causing the struggles or not, just as much damage can be done if it’s not handled right. Maybe you’ve been struggling with something personal and it has consumed you. It makes you do the very opposite of what you want to do. You’ve been on a quest to stop and have failed many times. In your mind you’re thinking “I should be able to stop this”, but you can’t and it’s causing you guilt and shame. Here are a few things I’ve learned looking back at my struggles and how I overcame them.
I had to admit that I was struggling. I released the power of the struggle by confessing it to God and someone else (parent, church leader, accountability partner, trusted friend).
I CANNOT fix myself. I have to understand that I am broken and so all of my solutions are flawed. That’s why Proverbs 3:5 talks about us not trusting in our own wisdom but trusting in God.
Give it to God.-Don’t Wait!!! Make God your first option. 1Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
I had to seek Godly Counsel. I needed to go to someone who trusted in God with their own life. I needed someone who understood that they needed to give me the advice God wanted me to hear. Proverbs 11:14
Be a doer and not just a hearer. Follow God’s plan of freedom for your life in the areas that you struggle.
I can’t tell you how many times during the course of my life that I’ve had to follow these steps. I can honestly tell you that it works. One of my favorite verses John 10:10 talks about how Christ came that we would have an abundant life. I believe that the fact God wants to help us with our struggles and worries is the abundant life!
It’s been three months since I’ve started blogging so I don’t have a ton of posts yet. Writing has never been my strong suit but blogging has been something I’ve wanted to start for a while now. I hope you’ve been encouraged by this blog. I really look forward to what 2012 will bring as I continue to write in hopes to encourage youth workers and students through this blog.
Would love to hear your comments on a post that you’ve connected with or any feedback you may have about the blog.
This is the post that came to me at 2:29am. This came to mind as I opened up my gift from my wife… a G-Shock :). I remember being young and waking up in the morning, running downstairs finding all the gifts with my name on it. With each gift I found and opened my excitement grew. After the last gift was opened I felt a little sad because I felt like Christmas was over. I loved the feeling of seeing my name on gifts and opening them. I can’t remember thinking about anything else during that time. That’s how it was every Christmas. Until, I was around 15 years old when I opened the greatest gift ever given to man, Jesus Christ.
I always had the idea of who Christ was because I grew up in church, but it wasn’t until I experienced him for myself that I understood that he cared about me personally. I didn’t get any earthquake chills or anything like that when I decided to start my relationship with Christ. I just felt like there was a better life for me to live and that I needed to start living for more than just myself. Christ had given me acceptance, unconditional love and a purpose that I would spend the rest of my life fulfilling.
My prayer for students today is that they would receive and accept the same gift just as I did. Receive acceptance, unconditional love and purpose. My prayer for those who have received and accepted the gift is that they would grow closer in a relationship with Christ. Also, that there would be an urgency for them to share Christ with their friends. Remembering that Christ was born so that everyone would have a chance to receive the gift of Christ. The question is do you know friends that you use some acceptance, unconditional love and purpose that would fill their life with meaning?
Today – start a real relationship with Christ. Today – share the news of Christ with a friend.
If you’ve committed to either or both I would love to hear about it. Also, share this post with friends and maybe discuss it. email@example.com or look me up on FaceBook and message me!!