I know that I can be a jealous person. Because of that, I have to resist the temptation to feel hurt when one of my students doesn’t come directly tome. At times, I know I set up a wall around my “territory” of students, not wanting to allow anyone else in to help them. They have to get through that wall to get to my students, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure they don’t get through the wall. My students are mine. Your students are yours.
That’s when I remember Rick Warren’s famous line, “It’s not about you.” Do we really want to see the student get the advice and help they need, or are we more concerned with our own pride and desire to be the hero that solved the problem? Our goal should be that a student gets the best help possible, and sometimes that doesn’t come from me. Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” If we keep on thinking we can fix all the problems, we’ll soon find out we’re not as wise as we thought.
I have to ask myself, “That student feels a bond of trust in the leader he went to, so am I doing everything I can to build up the same level of trust in that student?” The first thing I need to do is realize that we’re all shaped individually to handle different situations. If I know that someone else is better equipped to handle a specific issue, I should be more than willing to send my student their way. We all have been through different fires and come out with a better understanding of how to face the problem. Who better to help a student with a drinking or drug problem than a former alcoholic or drug addict? They know how hard it is to get to the other side, and they can help a student way better than someone who hasn’t had the same experience. We can’t let our pride get in the way when someone better equipped to deal with a problem is called upon. In fact, why not store that in our Rolodex of the mind, so that next time I know who to refer a future student to when they’re dealing with drugs or alcohol? If a student comes to you knowing you’ve been through something like that, it’s also important to make sure their leader knows what they’re going through. It’s great that you can share your past pain or hurt, but their leader needs to know what their student is struggling with as well.
Last week I was faced with this exact issue, but I was the one “trespassing” on another leader’s turf. One of my former students had turned to me in a time of need, but not necessarily because I was better equipped for the situation. I think in this case, he felt comfortable with me as one of his leaders, and he was too ashamed of what he did to talk to his current leader. When it happened, I did my best to counsel him and make sure the situation was taken care of, but I did make sure to refer him back to his leader and make sure to fill him in on everything. Here’s the bottom line: don’t build a “kingdom” in your youth ministry. Know that you have weaknesses and that other people are way better equipped for some things than you are. With God’s help and some discernment, you can turn your youth group from an island into an alliance.
Are you doing everything you can to team up with other youth workers for the benefit of your students?
Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from two different generations and perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future — for now you canfollow them on Twitter and check out their previous blog posts here.