Thursday, 13 November 2008

Top Ten Tips for Youth Leaders

Tip 4: Relationship is Central

Take 20seconds and think about the person who most positively impacted you as a teenager.

(Stop cheating… stop reading & think)

Was it the music teacher who gave you confidence in your ability for the first time? A sports coach who encouraged you to keep going when you felt like giving up? A parent who didn’t send you to a borstal, despite your behaviour? Was it the person who actually wanted an honest answer when they asked “how are you?”

I’d be willing to bet that the person who helped change your life had a good relationship with you. I mean when did we ever value the opinion of someone we didn’t respect or who didn’t take the time to truly know us?

In youth ministry we want young people to have a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We want leaders to have solid relationships with one another, with young people, and with young people’s parents. We want young people to have accountable relationships with their peers and their parents. We want the wider church body to have a positive relationship with the youth ministry.

Every meeting with a young person is an opportunity. To inspire them… to build their confidence… to make them laugh… to listen purposefully… to point them towards God’s ways.

So let me offer some suggestions for how we might build relationships with teenagers (stolen & adapted from “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” by Doug Fields).

R is for “Relational Approach” – have a serious conversation with a teenager at least once a month.
E is for “Encouragement” – praise good questions, answers, sincere sharing & their involvement.
L is for “Laughter” – pursue humour, smile (even when they goof it up); don’t let your church group feel like a funeral.
A is for “Acceptance” – of everyone, but especially the unpopular, the geeky & the hurting.
T is for “Transparency” – don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers & that life confuses you sometimes too.
I is for “Involvement” – young people should do 90% of talking; which means you should do 90% of the listening.
O is for “Outreach” – pray for nonbelievers & constantly talk about friendship evangelism.
N is for “Numerical Growth” – would new people feel welcome in your group? If your group isn’t growing in numbers, be brave & ask “why not”?
S is for “Spiritual Growth” – talk about faith, not just football, shopping & X-Factor.
H is for “Home-like” – when you haven’t seen a young person in a while say “Welcome back” not “Where you have been?”
I is for “Integrity” – try to be consistent with young people.
P is for “Professional” – be aware of parents’ perceptions.
S is for “Strategic” – if you don’t see a young person for a while, send them a letter or give them a call.

I’m off to try & practice what I preach.

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