5 Reasons that Relationships with Students Matter

why relationships matter

As with anything in life, relationships matter. It’s not always about what you know, but who you know. That’s true for the corporate world, for the music industry and for lots of other places in life.

When I think of building relationships in student ministry, however, the reverse is often true; it may not be our need for us to know students, but it sure is a need for students to know us.

Let’s do an experiment: I want you to think of the single most influential person in your life when you were a teen. If you are thinking of more than one person, quickly narrow it down to one just for this exercise. Now, if you are like many youth workers I am privileged to lead on a regular basis, the one person you are probably thinking of from your teen years is an adult. Hal Hamilton taught me that "a student will gravitate toward the oldest person who will take them seriously." I have found that to be the case.

Jesus built relationships with people. He had a relationship with the masses and he was publicly known. He had a relationship with the crowds and many followed him, such as the seventy he sent out. He had a personal mentoring relationship with twelve and he had yet a deeper friendship with three. It’s through the life of Christ that we see that relationships with students are important. But why are they important? Here are five reasons:

1. There is no substitute for Christian relationships with students. With all the conferences a person can attend, with all the online information, daily email devotions and Facebook interactions, students in this day and age still need the good old fashioned opportunity to stop by the youth pastor’s office at the church. They still need to be able to meet in the home of their small group leader for weekly Bible study and friendships. The Kingdom of God is huge, but each local community makes it that way. Students can experience Jesus in many different settings, but can only be discipled face to face.

2. Students need you to point them to Christ. Your life and service are a witness to the faithfulness of Christ. Why is it important for leaders to have relationships with the students? Because Christ wants to have a relationship with the students. In your relationship with teenagers, you model Christ’s consistency and point them to Jesus.

3. The domino effect begins to happen. When leaders love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, and souls and their neighbors as themselves, students then experience the love of God. They, in turn, begin to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and their friends as themselves. Then that friend experiences that love and begins to love the Lord with all his or her heart, mind and soul and begins to… Being the salt and light in the world isn’t just a phrase, it’s an experience and a lifestyle. Live it out!

4. The message is more clear and more believable. I’m always skeptical if I get a call from someone, out of the blue, asking me to give something, do something, or buy something. If I know that person, however, I have a different mindset about it. If I have a relationship with the person, I find that I really want to know what they are calling about. When we share Christ with students (with whom we share a relationship), the message is clearer for them- both in words and actions.

5. Relationships open doors. If you have a relationship with a student, it opens doors to conversations, connections and change. If you don’t have a relationship with a student, the odds of those three things happening decrease dramatically. Doors are also open to friendships through the students you know. And doors are open in the way students see Christ’s love modeled. If you are able to lovingly care for and pursue a student who has gone down the wrong path, then Christ’s love is modeled to them. By keeping doors open, you can be ready (when students ask) to give a reason for the hope you have found.

I have been in countless settings where I have seen the relationship with students matter. If I had to give one piece of advice to a youth pastor of any age I would say, “Don’t focus on “relationships,” focus on people.” The relationships will take care of themselves. Though the nuts and bolts of learning about relationships are important, God’s heart is about people. Sometimes we get caught up in being a great leader, a great relationship builder, and other things as well. Learn those and learn them well, but don’t mistake the goal. The goal isn’t to become great at relationships, the goal is to love the students God has given you to serve. 


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