Being a teenager can be stressful. Studies show that more students struggle with depression and anxiety now than ever before. It is important to remind ourselves of this reality as we work to build a youth ministry that is safe for students.
I believe that now more than ever that youth ministries need to be aware and honest about these issues. We should be the safest place to tell the truth about our lives and what we are feeling.
At the same time being a teenager is fun…or should be fun. Students can be professionals at not taking themselves so serious and it can be a lot of fun to experience life through their eyes.
I believe that our ministries should be fun. Laughter should be a high priority. We should be a place where fun is expected.
Here’s what I have noticed, I’ve have a hard time finding the balance between the two. I am pretty certain that I am not the only one. Either our ministries are all business all the time or they are a big game filled with endless jokes.
How can we find the place in the middle?
Here are a few things I am learning about finding the middle ground:
1. Make fun inclusive. How many students find school or church unsafe because fun is exclusive. Whether it is being the last one picked to join a team or being the butt of the joke. Fun needs to be inclusive. I wholeheartedly believe that the right kind of fun can lead to creating a safe environment. And just is true, that the wrong kind of fun can lead to creating an unsafe environment. What kind of fun are you having?
2. Laugh at yourself. Admit your failures and tell a few embarrassing stories while you are at it. If you don’t pretend to have it all together, they won’t feel the added pressure to have it all together. Do we really need to be the hero in every story?
3. Dare to talk about the real issues. Address anxiety and depression. Speak about the pressures. Display empathy as you talk about these issues. Don’t tell a student to get over it but unpack how they may be feeling and let them know they aren’t alone.
4. Listen more. Don’t feel like students need you to provide all the answers. Sometimes they just need us to listen. Hear them out and give them a safe place to process.
There are several more things running through my mind when it comes to creating a youth ministry that is both safe and fun. I bet you have some great ideas too, feel free to share them us. How do you do it?