top of page

how to encourage students to become egocentric brats

Many people look for leaders who “relate” to teenagers but I think we’re missing the point if that is what we’re searching for. I tend to be a bit concerned if an adult is relating to my kid. I want my girls’ leaders to teach, lead, and love them. I believe a better term for the goal might be “connectivity.” I definitely want my girls’ leaders to connect with them over relate to them.

During the past decade or a bit longer, during our seminary days, we have seen some amazing adult student ministry leaders. No ministry is perfect because we live on earth and we are all sinners. We can all learn, grow, and become better. There are, however, better circumstances for ministry than others. To be transparent, I have seen moms of teenagers literally close a door in my face to hang out in a church kitchen and exclude me as the new student pastor’s wife. I have seen people fight over who gets what small group for Sunday School. People even compete for who has the best small group room decorations.

This title is serious and I mean everything I say but I also smile as it drips with sarcasm. Don’t send me hate mail! Please read these thoughts with a tender heart as we all desire to become more like Christ. I am serious about this topic because the enemy would like to keep the focus on these issues instead of the lives of students. I also want to keep it light-hearted and maybe cause you to smile a bit as you read. Maybe it will also cause some conviction as you work with teenagers or are a parent of teenagers. These are some observations I have seen that can be improved on in many student ministries. Even though we are not currently serving in student ministry in a local church setting, these we find valuable to pass along to those who are or who work with teenagers like we do outside church.

be a bestie. I have actually heard teenagers say they do not need adult friends because they “have enough friends at school.” Teenagers are actually not looking for adult friends. They want authenticity. They can smell insecure adults a mile away. They may have fun with adults who befriend them, but if those adults are looking to impact the lives of those teenagers, it most likely will not happen because the respect just is not there.

compete with other leaders in ministry. Remember that awkward feeling as a kid when you go to your friend’s house and everyone there is fighting…feels reeeeeealllly awkward. Nobody wants to be there. Same at church. For example, I love when I go to my local Starbucks and the employees are kind to each other. As in, they help each other out, laugh, and get along. And it’s real. We should especially be loving to people we serve with at church. It draws people in. People want to be where love is. We are able to love each other despite differences because of Jesus Christ. He loved us first and helps us love other people. In the end, it is not about me as a leader. It does not matter how popular I feel because popularity is not the goal. The purpose of serving students is to point them to Christ through maturity and connectivity. Teenagers respect maturity. If you are a mom of grown children, own that! Be a momma of grown children. You do not have to wear sequin pants and possess the loudest voice in the room. You own a van and some mommy pants? Awesome! Own that and take those teenagers out for a Sonic drink in your mom-mobile! I guarantee they will listen to your words of wisdom!

only talk about cool topics and avoid the tough ones. Even children want to make good use of their time! People of every age want to learn and grow. When teenagers come to church they want to get something out of it, as in be challenged! My little sisters took two other sisters from our neighborhood to church each Wednesday night during one summer when they were ages five and seven. The neighbor girls quit coming because the groups they participated in only played games. The five year old said she could play at home so she did not want to go to church to play. They wanted to learn! Even a five year old, without using the exact words, wanted to make use of her time! Even when teenagers roll their eyes and simply “get through” a teaching time, Bible study time, or worship service, there is still something in them that is glad they made the time. Some teenagers will not take notes or highlight in their Bibles during these times, but some will! People in general like to be challenged and teenagers are no exception. It actually develops their self-esteem as adults think they are mature enough to study and handle God’s Word and discuss topics where they can process information! Their brains also are developing from concrete thinking into abstract abilities, so learning to process the world and how it works from a solid Biblical background is vital for spiritual growth after high school.

avoid telling the truth. Yes, it is necessary to encourage teens when they make wise choices and learn how to lead well. However, flattering them to the point they think they have arrived is probably too much. Praise is good. Flattery, not so much. We all know deep down that the people who love us most will tell us the truth. They will give praise and encouragement, while also encourage humility and let us know when we need to check ourselves. Adults who lead well will be brave and balance praise and encouragement with a loving hand on the shoulder as they help teens grow and mature.

pretend spiritually. Teenagers can tell if you are growing in Christ personally or if you simply show up to have fun and look cute. It is essential to be growing in your own spiritual life to be able to efficiently disciple those precious students. Spend time in God’s Word on your own. Memorize Bible verses yourself. Watch what you watch on tv and movies. Keep yourself pure. Treat people kindly. The students will be watching. Most importantly, your relationship with God is important!

ignore the pastor. We may not think about this too much, but it occasionally happens. Student leaders must remember that the student pastor is the God-given leader and visionary for the student ministry. Even if it does not make sense or you have “never done it that way before,” trust that pastor and support the decisions made. Keep in mind he is not perfect and will make mistakes. He and his family are only human. Encourage anyway. That person is accountable to God – a high calling. He is also the one God speaks to in order to lead the ministry. Got questions? Cool. Be forthcoming and ask him personally, then support the answer. Obviously, this would not be the case in a matter of something illegal, immoral, or unethical, but you get what I mean. Not much can discourage a minister more than people who speak behind his back without encouragement. In fact, send your pastor and his family a note thanking him for his service. There is more that goes in to student ministry than most know unless they have served in this way themselves!

Anybody relate to these? While students are growing older and moving on from high school, these issues can be used by the enemy to keep Truth from being taught to students. God bless you as you interact with students! May you keep a tender heart and remember why you serve! God bless your day!



Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page