As youth workers, our passion is to encourage students to walk in wisdom. If you are like me, you enjoy giving advice. There’s nothing like seeing a student’s face light up when they figure out the right thing to do.
Over the past few years of student ministry, I’ve noticed that how we give advice is just as important as what advice is given.
First, we are not their Savior. We are simply pouring the love of Christ into their hearts. So when a student asks a question and wants your advice…
You have a decision to make. You either muster up the most amazing, biblical, and thoughtful answer that has ever been communicated in all the history of student ministry! Or you decide to respond with a question.
If we lead students to discover what God says, we are leading them to trust God’s Word. The goal of student ministry is to help students own their faith long after they leave our ministries.
But what about if the student pleads with a pitiful, “Just GIVE me the answer!” Here are some tips on how NOT to give advice and how TO give advice to students.
HOW NOT TO GIVE ADVICE TO A STUDENT
Don’t respond with the answer, even if you know it. Let the question breathe. Now if they are asking if they can go to the bathroom (especially middle schoolers) you can give them the answer quickly (or you might regret it later!)
Don’t move on to a new question too early. Campout and unpack the baggage they are bringing to you. Ask questions that move from the surface to the heart.
Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers. We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. We all know we are but most students can easily put us on a pedestal. A good response to a hard question is, “I don’t know the answer but we can find out!”
Don’t be afraid of silence. Let the student sit for a moment and think. Embrace the awkwardness. I enjoy awkward moments but even if you don’t, learn to enjoy it.
HOW TO GIVE ADVICE TO A STUDENT
Do value their input. Do whatever it takes to value their input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong. Let them know you hear them but redirect them with another question. Don’t feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.
Do allow students to embrace the struggle of questions. The only way we grow is by asking questions. Help students know they can safely struggle through questions without pressure. Students want a heart relationship with leaders.
Do build upon the question. Reveal to them that it is a conversation and not a lecture.
- I can see more of what you mean, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?
- That is a great question, what do you think God might be showing you?
- Why do you feel that way? What do you think you should do?
Do know where you are leading them. As you learn to master the art of the question, realize that you are simply guiding them towards God. As you think through a response, point them to their relationship with God through questions. As you fight the urge to simply give them the answer, ask a question instead to help them become leaders.
As youth workers, our calling is to lead students to help them grow spiritually in THEIR relationship with God. If we spoon feed students our knowledge, experience and biblical understanding, we can easily stunt their long-term growth.
Questions are more important than answers. Let students ask and help guide them towards the truth of Jesus.
What are your thoughts on giving advice to students? What about asking the right questions?
Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at joshrobinson.cc or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson