Nearly every youth leader I’ve ever met wants to mentor teenagers. Hopefully, that’s why they signed up for youth ministry in the first place. But working with teenagers can be intimidating, and make you feel awkward.
There are a few obvious reasons for this:
- It has been a long time since you were in high school.
- Your group of friends doesn’t include teenagers (this isn’t a bad thing if you are an adult).
- You don’t know how to connect with a teenager.
Many youth leaders respond to this awkwardness in one of two ways.
- They withdraw from talking with students and quickly leave youth ministry altogether. (This isn’t a great option.)
- They act like a teenager. They change the way they dress, the movies they like, and behave more like a teenager. Again, this isn’t a great idea if this isn’t a reflection of your true personality. Teens don’t want mentors who are faking it.
Let me offer a few suggestions on how to reach out to the youth in your youth group. After all, if you are going to effectively mentor them, you are going to need to get over the awkwardness and talk with them.
Break out of your bubble. Don’t spend all your time talking with other adult leaders. You have other opportunities to connect with these leaders outside of youth group. Spend the time you are in youth group connecting with students. As a leader, this is part of the role you have.
Ask students about their lives. Where do you go to school? Where are you from? What is your favorite tv show? What do you want to do after high school? All of these questions can launch you into great discussions with any student. It may take more than one or two questions to get a student talking, but keep at it.
Remember your conversation. If you ask the same background questions to a student two weeks in a row, it will seem like you don’t care about them. Do your best to remember the conversation. Take notes on your phone if needed, and look over them before you meet again.
Ask God for help. We need God’s help to mentor people. This is true whether you are talking about a kid, a teenager, or an adult. As you talk to students, ask God to guide the conversation. We aren’t just trying to make a friend, we are trying to help students pursue God.
- Set Up: Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What are some awkward moments you have had trying to get to know the students in your youth group?
- What are some things you have done that have helped you to overcome the awkwardness?
- Why is it important to build relationships with students even if it is difficult at first?
- How can you help a new youth leader overcome the initial awkwardness of youth ministry?
- Takeaway: Write a personal action step based on this conversation.