Think for a moment – have you ever been at a place in your ministry where you felt like you weren’t quite connecting with your students like you wanted to? Maybe you’re still the “new guy.” Maybe you feel a little out of touch because of an age gap. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand that teenagers need to feel valued (let’s face it – everyone needs to feel valued). They need to feel like you care about them, not just at church, but outside of church, as well. So, how do you do that?
1. Get to the Games!
Ministry is just as much about what you do outside the church as it is what you do inside the church. You can preach the best sermons and have the greatest sermon videos (from VideosForYouth, of course), but if your students feel like your relationship with them stops there, they won’t stick around for very long. The easiest way to begin stepping outside the four walls of your church is to start getting involved with their extra curricular activities. Create some sort of “Drop Box” for sports schedules or band/chorus concert schedules. Make an effort to attend as much as you can and encourage your other leaders to attend, too. Seeing their youth pastor and leaders show up at an event that has nothing to do with church will make a HUGE impact on them. If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to ask them about it the next week.
2. Check In
Develop some sort of system for following up with students during the week. This shouldn’t just be for visitors! It may be as simple as a text message during the week asking them how they are doing, and if there is anything you can pray with them about. You may want to hand out a list to your youth leadership team and have each one of them reach out to students every week. The important thing to remember is that teenagers need to feel like they aren’t just “another kid.”
3. Get Them Plugged In
I’m sure we can all think of a few students in our youth groups that aren’t necessarily the most involved. Take some time to sit down and talk to them about their interests and what they’re good at. You may find out that the boy who hasn’t said a word to anyone since he got here is an awesome guitar player who wants to play in the worship band. The girl who never acts interested in youth services may be great at designing a Youth Group Facebook page. You may never know their gifts and talents unless you ask. Once they let you in on those talents and gifts – put them to good use!
Our jobs as youth pastors is not easy, and we make sacrifices, daily, to win students’ hearts for the Lord. I pray that you will be able to build awesome relationships with your teenagers this year. You never know…you may be ministering to the next YOU!