I love the craziness of large groups where I get to see a bunch a students at once. I love mowing through the crowd, giving hugs and high fives and randomly having greeting tribal dance-offs with students.
But another element that I love—one that’s just as important—is having one-on-one time with students where we get to talk about Jesus and life. Unfortunately, many youth workers struggle in this area and aren’t as comfortable with one-on-one interactions as they would like to be.
That’s why it’s important that, as a youth pastor, you implement the following three things in your quest to reach your church’s teens. These are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me in one-on-one situations.
1. Take control. Even though you want the student to share more than you, take control and facilitate. You will probably start off making small talk, which is great and sometimes the only thing needed; but sometimes you’ll want to guide the conversation to an area in which they need guidance or prayer.
I’ve found that students expect you to stir the conversation. I’ve also learned that my influence in their life grows when I show genuine concern for their lives.
Here’s an example of something I’ll do: Instead of just asking them how life is going for them, I’ll ask them to take a seat and then I’ll be specific about the areas I want to hear about. You’ll be surprised with the response you get. If a student doesn’t don’t have time, I’ll say, “great, let’s get together this week, “I’ll catch you on Facebook.” Then I’ll leave a message with specific questions for that student to answer. Again, you will be surprised at the response.
Just a word of caution, however: When communicating over social media, always think about context. My rule of thumb is to communicate as if their parents are sitting right by their side as they read what you’re sending.
2. Use discernment. Every time you get the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a student, consider it a golden moment. I’ve learned that you can burn that moment very quickly if you are not discerning of when to push the student and when to let an issue go.
Every conversation doesn’t have to be a come-to-Jesus moment. Again, sometimes small talk is all that’s needed , but you need to be able to discern that. You also need to be able to discern when a student needs to hear the truth of God’s Word.
3. Pray with them. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I don’t think we can stress this enough. What we pray for with our students sends a signal concerning what God cares about. If we only pray about the big stuff with them, then we are modeling that God only cares about the big stuff. God cares about the test they have that’s stressing them out. God cares about students performing at their best for a game that they have. He cares about it all.
We need to model that to them. So include all areas in which you can pray for them. I often hear people say that God’s got bigger things in this world to care about than their little situations. I wonder who modeled such a small view of God to them.
There are certainly more tips for improving your one-on-one time with students, but I wanted to hone in on the top three things that helps me get the most out of the time I spend with students. I have a lot of fun hanging with students, but I also know they need more than just fun. They need Jesus, and that’s the primary assignment God has given us as youth pastors.