My youth ministry’s winter retreat is rapidly approaching. As part of this, each adult leader gives a short devotion in response to a prompt related to our theme.
The beauty of this is that it allows each leader a moment in the spotlight, something that gives them ownership of our winter retreat. By sharing a part of their story during their devotion, leaders also build connections and bridges with teens. Often, what is shared during devotions is not something teens already know about leaders.
This year, our theme is vulnerability in relationships – specifically relationships with friends and families.
I’ll admit, asking leaders to give a devotion about that kind of topic can be dangerous. After all, you never know what someone will choose to share.
To help mitigate this risk, each year, I give leaders the same advice: Share vulnerably, but leave out the details.
You see, details are what get you into trouble.
Too many details make teens downright uncomfortable. There are simply things about your life that teens don’t need – or want – to know. Sharing too many details can make you go from a “nice guy” who serves in the youth ministry to a “creepy old man.”
Too many details can also cause teens to lose respect for you. When you share too many details, teens feel as though you’re trying too hard to be their friend. And most teens already have friends. What they may not have in their lives are adults who love, care about, and honor them. One of the ways you can honor teens is by NOT trying to treat them as a friend with whom you’d share all the details of your life.
So how do you decide what details to share?
Ask yourself one question: For whose benefit are those details being shared?
If it’s for the benefit of the teens, write them out… Then edit them, removing any details that even remotely cross the line between adult leader and friend.
If it’s for your benefit, leave out the details entirely.
Teens are NOT your therapists and giving devotions – or a message or sharing in a small group – is not your opportunity to bare your soul.
It’s your opportunity to inspire, encourage, and challenge teens to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
Details simply aren’t necessary for that.
Your willingness to share honestly about your life and faith is all that is.