I have been working with students for over 20 years, and believe me when I tell you youth culture has changed. I will spare you all the culture changes I have seen over the years, but I do remember when it was cool to have the latest Swatch watch, and some students would even have more than one. We have gone from Swatches to iPhones, iPods, and to actually having to schedule time to hang out with students. Although youth culture has changed, the needs students have seem to not only be timeless but also cross all cultural boundaries. In Matthew 9:36 it says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus knew and understood the needs of the people he was ministering to, from the leper he reaches out and touches to challenging the rich young ruler to follow him.
I believe that to affectively impact a student’s life we need to understand the basic needs they might have. As we become aware of the needs of students we will recognize the importance to of investing in their lives.
As youth workers, how do we demonstrate that we care? Each student is in a unique place in life and we have to find ways to show that we care.
Students question their own faith and need to have you base their questions and faith in reality. I believe the best way to do this is through pointing students to Gods road map for life “The Bible:” The Bible is full of real life stories that the Holy Spirit can use to soften even the hardest of hearts and closed minded individuals.
Students need role models and other adults who live what they say, people of integrity. As youth workers we need to be whole heartedly committed to following Christ as a life style. We need to ask ourselves how is my daily life reflecting Christ. In other words we need to live a life worth following. In 1Corinthians 11:1 Paul tells the Corinthians to “follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” Our lives should be an arrow pointing to Christ.
…beyond their own needs, wants, and desires. In other words students need a cause and purpose bigger than themselves. For too long in youth ministry students have been recognized as objects of ministry and we need to take them from being objects to being partners in ministry. Our culture has very low expectations for teenagers and I believe they want more. I see that every summer when I lead teams with Royal Servants. I would like to recommend a book that is about a teenage rebellion against low expectations called “Do Hard Things” by Alex & Brett Harris.
They don’t need the message of “if you change, then I will accept you.” We must love and accept each student for who they are and as God brings them to us.
Many students today don’t know how to play and enjoy life. They need you as a leader, to create experiences. Creating experiences gives the opportunity meet them where they are at and also breaks down many of the walls that students build to keep people from getting into their lives.
When we go out of our way and invite them into our lives it communicates that they matter to us. Once a month my wife and I invite students from our youth group to our house for “Dinner at the Burnams” and they love it. We don’t do anything huge just eat together, hang out, watch a movie, and play games but most of all we are making them feel cared for.
This is why it is so important to remember that youth ministry entails family ministry. God can use us as youth workers to minister to the parents as well. In my years of youth ministry experience I have learned that understanding a students family situation helps explain how, why, and who they are right now.
Whether students realize it or not they need boundaries. Discipline and encouragement is key for them to develop in a healthy way and it needs to be done with the “truth” being “spoken in love.”
It is important that we talk with them about things that are important to them. When we do this it allows us to get into their world of what they are feeling and living in everyday life.
Bottom line Youth Ministry is about relationships with: Christ, peers, adults, and family members.