Have you ever worked with a student who just couldn’t stand you? I have. You know the deal – the rolling eyes, snarky comments, being completely ignored, blatant efforts to be disruptive, and the heaps of sarcasm. Having a hater is totally awesome. Ok, not true. No one likes to be hated, and it’s not awesome at all. We want all of our students to love us, but the reality is, they don’t. Once in a blue moon, a hater dwells among them.
Here are few things I’ve tried to remember and practice that have turned some of my haters around:
Seek understanding and clarity: We should always make an effort to gain an understanding of where a student is coming from. If we better understand why they feel the way they do, and why they hate the way they do, we can take steps in a more positive direction. We should never assume we know why a student dislikes us. We should do what ever we can to start a dialog – which means starting where they are, not where we want them to be.
Give it space and time: Some students just need time to get to know us. It is possible to try too hard to gain a student’s approval. This just pushes the student further away and irritates them. Give them space. Say hey, but don’t smother them. If they are with friends that are a little bit friendlier, we can approach and talk to the entire group. God will give us opportunities to connect and reconcile with students. We have to trust in his love and timing not just our tested youth worker experience and skill.
Be the adult: Haters will test us. Students desperate for attention often push adults in negative ways because it draws focus to them. When being tested, we should not respond while we’re angry or frustrated. We should defuse the situation by not over reacting and not responding in a crowd. When we need to address a student who is testing us, we should do this outside of the large group during a more appropriate time, not in the moment.
Outlast the hate: The love of God in us will outlast the hate of some of the best haters out there. We should pray that God would make us fair, honest, patient, kind, full of grace, understanding, and wisdom. When we outlast the hate, good things happen. Hate will get tired when all its tests have failed, all its lies return void, and waves of kindness and understanding wash over insecurities and fear.
I know it’s frustrating when a student is disruptive just to prove we’re not awesome. It’s distracting and unsettling when the very students we’re called to serve and love are disrespectful, looking at us like we have three heads. So this is what we’re gonna do. We are going to stand firm in the love of God that has call us and affirms us. We will hold to the truth that LOVE PREVAILS in student ministry. We will remember to pray for our haters everyday because they are exactly why we are youth workers.