Life often runs on parallel tracks of joy and sorrow.
Think about your own life and you can probably pinpoint a time when you were simultaneously experiencing great highs and excruciating lows. Life doesn’t say, “Hey, since Bob just got a promotion, we’ll wait a while before his daughter runs away from home.” Instead, those experiences have a tendency to co-exist.
And the same is true in your youth ministry. You’ll never have a time when everything is wonderful or a time when everything is falling apart; there will almost always be a little bit of both!
Which is why it’s safe to assume that whenever your youth group gathers, there are students experiencing both great highs and excruciating lows. So instead of “waiting” for a crisis, let’s assume for a minute that many students are already in one of some form or another…and prepare for the moment it reveals itself. So here are three simple ideas to be ready to minister to the students in your ministry who are hurting.
Identify the leader(s) in your ministry who are most comfortable ministering to hurting teens.
Everybody on your team should be competent in loving on students who are hurting, but some folks have a God-given ability to do it with excellence and confidence! Just because you are the point person on your team doesn’t mean you can’t pass hurting students along to somebody who can minister to them better than you can…in fact, you’re negligent if you don’t!
…But equip everybody.
Give all of your volunteer leaders some basic training on helping hurting teens. Make sure they know the various resources available to them, the counselors your church trusts, the mandatory reporting laws in your state, etc. Here’s the biggest training tip:
WE CAN’T FIX TEENAGERS!
Because we want to help, it’s tempting to try to navigate crisis with our teenagers on our own. Don’t make the mistake. Usually the best thing we can do is to point them to professionals. Sadly, many youth workers do more harm than good by not getting students and families the professional help they need.
…And love them unconditionally!
The best way to minister to the teenagers in your ministry, especially those going through tough times is to love them unconditionally and refuse to give up. You might not have all the answers, but you can listen. You may not have gone through a similar struggle when you were young, but you can feel their pain. You may not be able to promise that things will be better tomorrow, but you can promise that you will be with them no matter how bleak tomorrow looks! Love them unconditionally, and point them to their heavenly Father who does the same.
A great resource on helping students through crisis and other significant issues is 99 Thoughts on Caring for Your Youth Group by Matt Murphy and Brad Widstrom. This book offers a wealth of practical tools, tips, and techniques to help you become a youth worker who is equipped to care for teenagers from the coffee house to the crisis moments.
Thanks for loving your students so well,
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