Turning Points: Creating Meaningful Moments with Teens
I once had the opportunity to work with a youth group that had a solid team of committed adult leaders, but they were very worried about the youth because nobody would pay attention during the message.
So they had come up with a solid game plan: Adults were posted at each exit to keep students from wandering off, and several adult leaders would sit directly behind the group. As soon as anyone started goofing off during the sermon, one of them would step in and either get them to quite down, or take them out of the service.
Before and after the service, the adults hung out with each other, waiting for their duties to begin.
Extreme measures, and unfortunately, they didn’t work. But what really broke my heart was that these mature Christian leaders, each with a huge heart for students, missed the biggest opportunity to impact students by building relationships before and after the service.
Every possible social scenario eventually happens before or after your youth group, right in your church. From PDA (Public Displays of Affection) to breakups and ackward moments to angry yelling fights, it’s all going to come up eventually. But every one of these moments, big or small, is a priceless ministry opportunity.
Do you ever see a student handle a situation and just wish you could give them a little advice? Maybe they didn’t say “hi” to the new kid and you had an idea on how the could have done that. Or maybe they tried to challenge a friend in their walk with God but ended up spewing judgement on them, and you wanted to encourage them with some ideas on how to be gentler next time.
It’s time to just do it! Here’s how:
- After the fact, find a chance to pull them aside.
- Start with a few questions. Ask about their day first, and ask about what just happened. “Hey, I saw you were trying to encourage Tim over there. Way to go! I was wondering what happened?”
- Share your advice, but don’t use commanding words like, “should” and “you need to.” Instead, offer suggestions and ask for their input. Join them in the journey.
It’s easy, so don’t hold it in anymore. This is where youth ministry’s rubber meets the road. Take advantage of those teachable moments.
Three years ago, Nate started Called to Youth Ministry with a desire to equip and support youth pastors. It started after he noticed a trend of people with a passion for students "go it alone" for too long and otherwise burn out, without a friend or mentor to stand by them. Now the ministry hosts online training and networking groups that leaders can join from anywhere in the world. Youth ministers from California to Florida to the UK have already benefited from the coaching, community and prayer support these groups provide.
Two year ago, Nate also started an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) company with a desire to feed his family. Now he enjoys balancing the two and being able to use the business to support his ministry habit.
Nate lives with his beautiful wife, Christa, and rambunctious two-year-old son, Josiah, in Lake Geneva, WI.