On the 2nd night of Kim and I meeting with our community group, we had the opportunity to share the details of our past. It was tough.
After sharing, I definitely believe that something becomes so real when you open the doors to your peers and allow for them to gain “access” to your life. Last week I mentioned how freeing this can be, and how important it is to your benefit, and your growth as a human being.
The same goes with youth ministry.
For a while, I struggled trying to connect with students. I thought being their “friend” or dressing cool, or even learning their lingo would allow for a relationship in which these kids would respect me, and listen to every word I had to say. Oh, I forgot to mention I was in my early 20’s, pre-children, so needless to say was I completely wrong on almost every level.
Here’s what would happen: I became more their friend, and was not able to teach or lead which ultimately caused many 1-sided conversations in which nobody learned or respected anybody. This burned me out and I ended up leaving youth ministry all together. I learned, a lot.
Fast forward 10 years, and now I’m in my 3rd year of leading a small group of boys. I’ve learned that in order to really connect with these guys, not only do you just need to be “real,” you need to get the parents on board as well. This can be very, very difficult. In my short time, I’ve compiled a short mental list of ways to “get access” to your students. This may seem that it pertains to some of the larger youth ministries, but I’m sure you can implement some of this among the smaller ones.
By you giving us access to your sons/daughters, we are able to guide them according to their individuality. This is key, but what am I talking about here? Please allow them to attend outings OUTSIDE of just Sundays, so this gets them out of their “Sunday Mentality.” I know this can be difficult should you be separated, but if there’s anything you can agree on and not be selfish about, it should be your children’s growing faith. Are you just nervous to let your child go? Ask if you can join! Without this type of access, we are the blind leading the blind.
Establish a good relationship with their families. I’m talking about brothers and sisters as well as the parents. Learn 1 thing about one of the siblings, and remember it. Like a birthday, big concert or game, and just give a quick “so how did your ballet recital go?” Don’t only ask the question, BE ENGAGED. Especially if they’re younger! That trust will reap a harvest that will last beyond generations.
Don’t only plan outings with your students, plan 1 or 2 outings that will include families, invite everybody! Ok… well at least the parents. If they don’t want to do it, then you need to go back and establish the trust with the student, then ease into it.
Why should I even try this hard?
Seriously. If you are asking this question, and you’re in a position to lead other children into the Kingdom, please do not meet me. I don’t want to know you.
On the real: If you struggle with this, and you think you can just get by, by volunteering on Sundays to check “servitude” off your list, please don’t even bother and let somebody who WANTS to serve, serve. If you’re struggling with this because it is all so overwhelming with the amount of children covering the ages between 6 to 17, RECRUIT! Get a friend, or somebody to help you out and ask them to commit to one or 2 outings. This might be your paying gig, but should you try to do everything on your own, this gig is going to end sooner than you think.
Now for some feedback from you.