Chances are high that there’s some hidden pain in your ministry.
Some of your students are struggling and carrying terrible loads. They are alone, living on the edge of collapse and catastrophe. It’s unfair and it’s not right… but unfortunately, it’s reality.
Encountering pain in a student’s life is often difficult to maneuver. Some leaders react too apathetically and others respond too strong and try to “help” with something that sounds like “I told you so.” Avoiding or attacking aren’t the best ways to respond to teenagers in pain. We believe that youth ministry leaders need to develop the skill of noticing.
The darker moments in life hold great potential for discipleship. These moments are unique and require something more than “telling the truth.” Students need their leaders to notice their pain and show up in their lives.
Students struggling with doubt need to be affirmed.
Everyone’s faith journey is a little different, but one of the common elements of a growing faith is the appearance of doubt. When teenagers encounter doubts (which is fine—remember John the Baptist doubted) be sure listen to their questions and affirm them for wrestling with difficult issues. A doubter needs to be taken seriously before he or she will listen to an answer. Without trust, a doubter won’t be helped. It is exciting to watch a doubter eventually grasp truth.
Students struggling with situations beyond their control need a leader’s presence.
Some teenagers are facing impossible situations: difficult parents, death of a loved one, divorce… the list can get ugly, but you get the point. For this kind of pain, words are cheap and presence is priceless. When possible, just be available. Not every meeting/get together needs to be a lecture. When possible, offer practical help but keep the “lessons” and “teachable moments” to a minimum. Compassion and a hug can often have more of an impact than a quick answer and Bible verse.
Students struggling with pain need leaders who understand sin.
This one is typically a no-brainer for most youth workers who understand the power of grace they’ve personally received. Although it’s a lot easier to be judgmental at the speck in one’s eye and ignore the plank in one’s own. As leaders, we can infuse grace into our ministry culture when we share honestly about our own struggles (in appropriate ways). Work to minimize your shock when you learn about sin and personal struggles, as disapproval is something that is difficult to take back after it’s given.
Is there someone in your life right now who might be in pain? If so, there is prime opportunity for discipleship.