Everyone wants to be heard and known. We all have the desire to be understood in a light that doesn’t make us seem crazy. Now magnify these needs by a thousand and you have teenagers. Two main things that teens need in their lives are number 1: JESUS and number 2: imperfect adults who care about them. The reason I say imperfect is that one of the biggest disservices we do to the youth population in the church is making them think we as the adults have it all together. For some reason, youth leaders think that if we pretend we’ve never had a beer, said a curse word, or made a bad choice as a teen (or even as an adult for that matter), that we are somehow painting them the right picture of the Christian life. Now there are some adults who haven’t done any of the aforementioned things and that is awesome but I would take a guess that many have done at least one if not all of those things. When we start to be fake with students that’s when they start to be fake with us. I am crazy passionate about youth ministry and youth leaders that can really help the student along in their faith journeys. I have run into lots of different types of youth leaders of the last five years and early on I decided to be the imperfect youth leader. The one that maybe parents didn’t always understand but students did. These are 7 things that I have found to help be an imperfect youth leader.
Before you start throwing scripture at them, you need to connect with students. Connection is key in becoming a godly influence in the life of students and young adults. Find common ground. Relate to them on their terms at their level, not yours.
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening should be followed by an action. Remember their birthdays so you can mail them a card. Remember that time they told you their candy and bring them some to cheer them up or celebrate an accomplishment.
Put in the time. Time is one of your most valuable gifts to give because you can never get that time back. Students truly appreciate that sacrifice of choosing to spend time with them than at another commitment. Also the more you invest in them the more trust they develop which can lead to a stronger godly influence in their life.
Be who you are. This has a dual purpose. By being who God created you to be they see you living out all that the Christian life has to offer. Teens already tend to feel a sense of outsiderness and awkwardness with you, so what a beautiful picture it can be to see someone living out their unique brand of awesomeness! God made us all with quirks, unique personalities, and passions. Show those things to your students. Let them know its okay to be who they are.
If you aren’t letting students get to know you then they are never going to trust you. Not only will they not trust with the easy stuff but they certainly aren’t going to come to you when it matters most. It’s important to listen as mentioned above but it is also crucial to share (when appropriate).
6) Use Social Media
This can be a hot-button issue for some church leaders but I feel that when used properly social media can really provide great insights into your student’s lives. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat can provide you little snapshots into their personalities and what matters to them. Nuggets of truth and cries for help can be seen in social media postings. Social media posts can help with conversation starters because you have seen a glimpse into their week.
7) Stay the Course
Don’t abandon them after high school. Just as they needed you in those formative years of finding their faith, your students need you in that next stage of life as well. One of my favorite things to do is send handwritten letters within those first few months of college to let them know how much I miss them, I’m still thinking about them, and I’m still here. Stay with them!!
Perfect people don’t bring students to Christ, imperfect people do.
in grace and love,