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When you sit and talk with a student, what do you hope happens?

Early in ministry many of my one-on-one student conversations were about me trying to show them I was interested in their lives. The questions like name, school, and hobbies seemed safe enough to show them I cared, and I did. But I seemed to stay away from questions that took conversations to deeper levels.

I don’t think you can sit down with “just any student” and ask deep probing questions about life, faith, and the pursuit of the kingdom of God. But I do believe we can ask tough questions of more students than just the ones we’re really close to.

I recently had coffee with a non-believing student who’s been coming to our ministry for six months. In that conversation I asked him questions on faith, who Jesus is, the Trinity, Scripture, sexual standards, and more. Yes this is someone who I’ve tried to earn the right to talk to and be heard, but his spiritual status with God didn’t keep me from “just trying to be a friend” and not asking tough questions.

Yesterday I sat with two different students who have a relationship with Christ. During both conversations many of the same topics came up with the same depth and vulnerability.

When I sit and talk with a student, what I hope happens is we have a conversation that forces them to think. I want to be able to challenge students to think to deeper levels so they know that not only do I care about them but also I care about where they are going in life.

I firmly believe that pressing students with tough questions SHOULD BE part of our jobs as youth pastors. They have people around them who ask the surface questions all the time. I’m certain they need more spiritual leaders/mentors to ask them the tough questions that’ll force them to engage their brains and their souls with every aspect of life.

This isn’t always easy—in fact it took me some time to get used to it because it actually forced me to be more present and consistent with my follow-up with students after certain conversations occurred. But for the last five years this change of how I talk with students has been a more fruitful process then I would’ve imagined.

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