With my experience as a Youth Leader I have learned that the most important thing a leader can do is build and nurture relationships with the youth. I briefly touched on this topic in my last post, youth need someone other than siblings and parents to be a proper role model and confidant. There are just certain things that a teenage boy/girl will not go to their parents with; this is where a youth leader is most important. Students need a confidant and an adult that will not judge them or scold them, they just need an adult to listen to them. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of teenagers with some locked up problems and feelings with nowhere to go. I have been in that position, through my experience very few good things come out of situations like that. Here some ideas that I have found as a youth and a youth leader:
1. Be visible. This means that you need to have a vested interest in the lives of the youth. If a leader invests in the youth, the youth will want a relationship. There are a few ways this can be done, say ‘hi’ to them on Sunday mornings, it does not need to be a conversation, just a simple hello to know that they were noticed by their leader. If the students belong to any sports teams, go to a game or two. Obviously a youth leader can’t go to every game of every student, so try to hit a school team game where more than one student is playing. Also, be the loudest fan when there. I have noticed this within the Jr High rugby team I coach, the students think that the loudest fan at one game came to many more than just one. A youth leader needs to be a visible person a youth’s life if they want to play the proper role as a youth leader.
2. Listen. Personally I have trouble with this method. I am a fixer, ask my wife, she knows this better than anyone. Whenever anyone comes to me with a problem I right away tell them what to do to fix and get rid of the problem. This is not a very good method, there is a time and place to offer advice, when a student comes to their leader with a personal issue, the first thing to do is just listen. When a student has a problem, nine times out of ten they want and need someone who will listen to their problems without judgement. This could very well be the most important role as a youth leader. When a student trusts enough to vent and offload their struggles, they will trust their leaders enough when the time comes for advice. Just remember that when listening, just listen share their concerns, the last thing a youth wants, is to feel alone in their issues.
3. Quality time. Just like any relationship, there needs to be quality time. Students need to spend quality time with their leaders. When spending time with the youth, leaders can really get know the students, know their likes, dislikes, interests, everything. All this knowledge will come in handy when ministering to the students. There are many ways to spend quality time with the youth. This can be done during youth group events. This is a good way to kill many birds one stone. Leaders can spend time with a group of the students a time, groups of friends and small groups. Part of spending quality time is one on one time. Take the students out for coffee, lunch, breakfast, whatever. Leaders just need to take time from their lives to hang out with their students. Youth notice when leaders do that, they appreciate the fact that leaders are willing to take time out of their day to spend with them. Another great way to spend time togehter is serving together. When serving God together, relationships build in a very special way. Students and leaders both grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and they grow together. There will always be that common ground between the leaders and the students. No one can count how many times a leader or student says, “remember than time on our serve trip…?”
These are 3 ways to build relationships with the youth. I offer this information from my past experience as youth with and without a leader, and now as a youth leader. I hope that leaders can use this information to serve God and minister the youth.