I’ve learned that relating to students is more about what you do than who you are. I wrote a post a while ago called “The Bs to Being a Great Youth Leader,” and it was about clearing up the misconceptions of what a youth leader has to be in order to relate to students. I believe the misconceptions of who a youth leader has to be cheapens youth ministry in general.
I believe the focus of a youth minister should be on what they do and not on who they are. Because I believe youth ministry is mostly about relationships, the fact that God created us to be in relationship with Him plays a huge part in that idea. Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse.
In the three years He spent in ministry, everything He did pointed to the fact that it’s all about relationships. A lot of what I do I’ve learned from Jesus’ time here on earth doing ministry. So here are five things I’ve learned from Jesus concerning viewing and relating to students.
1. View students in light of their potential. Jesus always looked past people’s present circumstances and looked at who they had the potential to become. Jesus looked past the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and saw his potential. Jesus looked past the lifestyle of the woman at the well and saw her potential. We should do the same. Who someone is today doesn’t have to be who they are tomorrow.
2. Make time to talk. Jesus was never too busy for a conversation. I like the fact that Jesus didn’t come to earth doing ministry from a fire-breathing chariot, because I can’t do that. Instead, He came doing ministry through relationships, one conversation at a time. I’ve got to make time to talk to students. Allow the programs and events to be the vessel to great life-changing, life-healing conversations.
3. Focus on who they have the potential to be and not on who they used to be. Jesus never dwelled on the past. He paints a great picture of this with the disciples. He was always moving people to the life they had the potential to live. Students need someone speaking into their life words that move them toward their potential. The more they dwell on the past, the more they will live in the past. Students need to know there is a better life than the one that they are living—and that they can have this better life.
4. Challenge their faith. Jesus was always challenging the disciples to do what they thought was impossible. He was building their faith in Him. Challenging students to do things they think are impossible without God increases their faith in God. Growth comes when we are stretched in our thinking and in our view of who God is. So stretch them by challenging them in their walk with God.
5. Pray for them. I love how Jesus never said, “I’ll be praying for you.” He just prayed right there on the spot for those in need. This is something I’ve definitely tried to model. I’ve learned that when it comes to praying, students will totally follow your lead. So don’t wait. Pray with them right there.
I had a student once who was having surgery. I randomly ran into her and her mother and some friends two days beforehand. Once she told me about the surgery, I asked if I could pray for her. She said, “Of course,” and so I pulled everyone together to pray. It almost brought her mom to tears that we were all praying for her daughter. It also felt good to just be bold and pray. We don’t have to confine God’s power to just move in the four walls of the church. He’s everywhere. So let’s minister like He’s everywhere.
Viewing students and relating to them in this light will change the way you view and relate to them. I only listed five. Can you think of more ways Jesus has taught us how to view and relate to students?
Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He's married with three children and loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs www.yoacblog.com.
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