My first experience in youth ministry was taking a group of guys out for pizza, and then a sleepover full of snacks, movies, video games and conversation. No one in the church I was attending told me to do it, I just did it. The time I spent with those students and the things we did, was basically based off of what I would’ve loved to have happen to me when I was a student. I wanted to be someone they could share their struggles with but also enjoy a lighthearted conversation. I wanted to be able to speak into their lives God’s truth and also be the one they came to when they had questions.
My motive behind connecting with students was not just to be their friend, but also be someone who they could connect with when they needed guidance in the spiritual and the natural areas of life. Now, I know some people would say well the way you connect with students is you find a leader that’s a great fit for the student you are trying to get connected. I also know that the majority of youth groups don’t have that luxury, and personally I don’t think they need to.
Connecting with students has more to do with the leader than the student. The cool kids, geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, the indie kids, the gamer and all of the other students we stereotype could careless about what you’re into. They just want to know that you care. I listed some transferable things that I’ve learned through trail and error, that has helped me connect with all types of students on a deeper level.
- Lead by example and with words. – Preach and promote from first hand experience. Would you buy a Ford from a salesman who drove a Chevy?
- Never miss an opportunity to point the student to Christ. – We believe Christ is the answer, the cure, the end all be all. In my experience a lot of the students problems are centered around where Christ is in their life. You still have to be mindful of your approach but all roads should lead back to Christ.
- Never miss an opportunity to listen. – I cannot stress enough how important it is you become a listener. I know some people are good at it naturally and some of us have to work at it. It is truly a quiet mega strength that connects you with any student.
- Never miss an opportunity to share your life experience. – Nothing makes a point like a life experience. When you share your flaws and failures it gives hope to others. God does not waste our hurts but he uses them in powerful ways.
- Be honest and a learner. – it’s hard to fake interest so don’t try. You do not have to have anything in common with the student to connect with them. Take this as an opportunity to learn something new. Allow them to teach you about their hobbies, sports or activities. Example: I had an hour and a half conversation with two students who loved screamo music. (Google it:) ) I didn’t even know it existed. I was honest that I had never heard it but interested in learning about it. We had a conversation that went from screamo to Christ. I learned how they grew up, what type of music their parents liked and found out that they both had questions about Christianity. I believe connecting with students has everything to do with you and little to do with them.
- Don’t make connecting with them about the deep talk every time. – they also need to know that they can just talk to you without expectations. Discussing movies, music, fashion and funny stuff should be a normal thing.
I hope this gets you thinking about ways to connect on a deeper level with students. I know small groups are starting up and I would encourage you to share this post with your leaders. Be intentional in speaking and training on this subject. It will give your leaders more confidence.
hope it helps