Over the past few weeks I have talked to some of our newer volunteers about they can make sure they are connecting relationally to our students. A lot of them say they feel like they are not making the connections that they thought they would be. They asked me how I relate and start up conversations with students I meet for the first time.
Here are some things I told them about how to become a relational giant:
Push past the awkwardness- Meeting new students can be awkward. They don’t know you, you don’t know them. So the fact that an adult is coming up to them and they do not know you, it can be awkward. It’s okay, it’s normal. Push past it. It gets better. Keep your cool.
Be you- One of the many reasons I think we have such amazing report with students is because we have a ton of different and awesome volunteers. I tell newbies, don’t be me, and don’t be josh, be you. Students will like you once they warm up to you.
Smile- It’s amazing what a smile can do. If you are standing in a room full of students and you have a mean mug on, no one is going to want to talk to you. A smile breaks down the walls and lets the students know, “Hey, I’m friendly. It’s okay to talk to me.”
Act your way into feeling- I have heard it been said, “It’s easier to act your way into a feeling rather than feel your way into acting on it.” It’s true in student ministry. Something might not be what you like to do or be involved in….but its not about you. It’s about your connections with students in the ministry. Which leads me to the next point.
Be all in- Plain and simple. When you act all in physically, you will be all in mentally. Hold nothing back. You will find that when you go all in and be wild, crazy, dumb, or even calm and in conversation, students will be all in right behind you.
Play 20 questions- When you are in and talking; I tell newbies to play 20 questions. Of course the students don’t know I’m playing it with them, but I’m asking them questions about themselves. “What school do you go to? What grade are you in? What is your favorite TV show? What’s your favorite food? Do you play any sports?” etc. Once I find something they say more than two words about because they are passionate about it, I stick to that and let them talk. If you didn’t realize, students love to talk about themselves. So play 20 questions.
Be present- The more you are around, the more familiar and the more safe you will become. Just being at as many events as you can be, at as many services you can be, and be consistent with it, students will come to know you as a regular and you can keep on making connections with new and older students because you are now a regular face there.
Being a relational is huge when it comes to youth ministry. It’s all about making connections with students because when you make connections with them they are then open to you when you speak into their lives. When we speak the truth of God, they will be more inclined to listen because they now know whom you are.