Recently, we had a senior girl share her testimony at our high school program. It was powerful. Afterward, her peers came up and showed her love.
What made the testimony even better was the fact that we recorded and placed the video on our student ministry Facebook page (with parental permission). In return, the young girl received several compliments and words of love from peers, parents and adults in our church. The next time I saw her, you could tell there was an extra bounce in her step.
You are called to walk with students in their faith journey. During that journey, they will face hopeless moments where they will need encouragement to survive. One of your roles as their youth minister is to cheer them on, affirm their choices and make sure they are being loved. While there are many ways of doing this, five that I would recommend are:
1. Bragging about them publicly. At first a teen might be slightly embarrassed, but giving them praise in front of a crowd is huge. It lets them know that they are so great that you don’t want to hide it. By telling your audience why this person is awesome, you affirm them as a role model (especially to their younger peers).
2. Touch base before something big. Text them, write on their wall, send them a tweet or take them out for a bite to eat right before something big happens. As a kid, my mom used to write notes on my lunch bag before a big test. It was a little embarrassing; however, it was reassuring to know someone was thinking of me. The beauty of social media is you can let your teens know that you are thinking about them moments before they embark in the battles of teenage life.
3. Call their parents. One way to motivate teens is to do it through their parents. When a parent feels supported in the job they are doing, they’ll pass along the extra encouragement to their teens. And there is nothing better than boosting a teen’s morale through their family.
4. Thank them for being them. They don’t have to do something impressive, unexpected or selfless; just let them know they're appreciated. It will especially mean something if you can send a handwritten note. Many times teens are working to be someone they are not. When you thank them for being simply themselves, you show them God’s authentic love.
5. Utilize physical affirmation. Next time you see a student, give them a hug, shake their hand and let them know you are proud of them. This is intimidating because of the scandals and controversy out there. If you are unsure, just make sure you aren’t alone (especially with the opposite sex). Be consistent, but don’t be afraid to give them positive contact. It’s the intimacy they might be missing in their lives.
You can assume your students know how you feel; however, with all the voices they face on a daily basis, you need to make yours louder. When teens know they are loved, they will feel like they belong. When they feel like they belong, they’ll be more open to hearing the Good News. Let them know how much they are truly loved.
How do you boost teen morale in your youth ministry?
Josh Griffin has been in youth ministry for 16-plus years in one small church and one big church. He currently serves as the high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.