When it comes down to it, most of what we do is about relationships with students. In order to help students from one step of their faith to another, students need to know certain things about their leaders. Now when I say leader it can be many things: Pastor, mentor, small group leader etc.
They need to know that:
They Are Loved – Obvious right? But you would be surprised at how many students genuinely do not feel any sort of love from anybody. We as leaders need to make sure the students we minister go out of our way to make sure our students are feeling loved, not only by the staff and volunteers, but to help them understand they are loved by an incredible God.
They Are Known – One of the most important things a teenager has is their name. The fact that they can be greeted by their name is already a huge win. I am awful with names of new students. Awful. So I have to try really hard. (The Course 101 Training from DYM University is great on this BTW) But when I remember a name of a student who I met the week before you can see it in their face that they are happy that they are known. For guys in my small group, they are known. I know about things going on in their lives and I am intentional with making sure I ask questions about what is happening.
They Are Safe – Students need to know they are safe. Chances are if students are not able to talk to you because they do not feel safe they are not talking to anyone else about it either. You might say it from the stage, “Hey, we are here for you all, come talk to us.” But if they do not really KNOW they can, they probably wont. Going out of your way to ask them eye-to-eye, “Hey, how are you. Really” Let’s them know you really do care and that you can be trusted to talk to.
You Are Consistent – Because where students are developmentally, they cannot handle and process change really well. That is why meeting every week during the year is such a comforting thing for students. The fact that we are consistent in a constantly changing (they are changing, their world is changing, developmentally they are changing, etc.) life and world is huge to students. They need to know that you are going to be consistent.
You Are Not Judgmental – How we react to students when they tell us something because they trusted us… is huge. If they believe you are judgmental, good luck in having them come to you again with something they are struggling with. We are not to judge them but be there for them. Listen to them, ask them a ton of questions, speak truth in to their life but do it with grace. We have all messed up in our lives as well.