To lead student’s means you have to include them in your life. No brainer, right?! Wrong.
No matter how much we care for students, it still takes an intentional, deliberate effort on our part as leaders. Life is busy, stressful and unpredictable. To lead students you will need to include them. Including students requires a shift in a few areas.
First of all, there must be a shift in your mindset. Students are not another thing or task on your to do list. Students are people with feelings. Students hunger for relationship and they are really good at detecting if you are genuine or not! If you’re looking at students with the wrong mindset they will be an inconvenience rather than a creation of God. My father always says, “People are not an obligation they are an opportunity.”
We aren’t including students into our lives because we have to, right? We include because we see the opportunity to steer a young person towards a life that learns, loves and lives Jesus. Isn’t that what you wish for your own child, sibling or best friend? We love students with the love Christ has for the church; a love that sacrifices. Isn’t that what it takes to love…sacrifice? You will sacrifice comforts, time and your own desires. But this denying of one self is something that Jesus said to His disciples long ago in Luke 9. We shouldn’t be surprised by the life shift or sacrifice of including students.
The second shift is your agenda. I’ve alluded to it already but let me explain. You determine what you can give. Will you give up an hour, two hours or more a week to mentor and be with your students? Will you do this in person most of the time or on the phone? When will you make the time on your busy, packed agenda? Here’s a suggestion I learned from one of my youth pastor’s. Include students in your errand runs, shopping days, BBQ’s, yard work, movie nights, dinners, or traveling to church. Picking a student up can be an issue if the distance isn’t realistic. But, you can plan your mentor time in such a way that you are already expecting to see them. For instance, you could have quality time after church and drop them off at the church on your way back for a parent to pick them up. Look at your schedule to see what day and time is slow and not interfering with family time or other commitments. Personally, I like to hang out with students on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays after 3:00pm. I like Sunday nights because there isn’t much going on and I rather not waste my life in front of the television (did I mention sacrifice?).
The third shift is in your commitments. First of all, be careful what you commit to. Be careful not to commit to a bunch of different activities at church or in your personal life. If you are being stretched too thin you won’t be an effective mentor and leader. Leading students will be inconvenient if other things start taking priority over them. First priority is your relationship with God and your family. Second priority is your rest and space. If you’re like me you need alone time and rest before you can pour into people. Third priority is your job. After all these commitments, being with students is your next priority. I spend time with God, I spend time with my family, I work my job hours and then I concentrate on being with and leading students. The two greatest commandments are, Love God and love others. If that isn’t motivation to skip the yard work to be with students then I don’t know what is! Loving on students is living in proper relationship with God. I find that super encouraging.
Secondly, be careful what you say you’re going to do with a student because if you don’t it will send the wrong message. Being committed means you can’t bail like you may in other areas of your life. If you plan a weekly time to call or be with a student you have to practice commitment. Our world is full of promise and commitment breaking people and many students have experienced the negative effects of them. The last thing we want to do is make a student feel like they are an inconvenience or a burden on our weekly schedule. If we are consistent and committed we will communicate to our students that they matter to us and to God.
My Personal Experience
I recently picked up a student after school and took him to Dunkin Donuts to catch up. As I sipped my coffee and he sipped his soda I asked him simple questions like, “How are things going with your girlfriend?” “How are you handling the stress from school life?” And then, I popped the questions, “What has God been speaking to you about? What do you feel like He’s asking you to change? What has he encouraged you about?” The young man shared quite a bit and I kept firing questions to figure out more. I got real and personal by asking him things that would require transparency and trust. We opened up the Bible to something God spoke to me about (Psalm 19:14). We read it together and I asked him what he thought before I shared what I thought. When we were done with that dialogue I asked him what we should pray about. I prayed and then he prayed. After that we went to the grocery store and then picked up my daughter from day care. During the ride home we laughed and talked more, it was great. I never felt like he was an inconvenience, in fact, I felt like having to go to the store or having to cook dinner was the inconvenience. The reason this young man isn’t an inconvenience is because I love him. And the more we hang out the more my love for him increases and the more fulfilling it becomes. Before we went our separate ways this young man said, “I really needed this today.” That’s all I needed to hear.
I hope you find this inspires you to be with a student and point them in the direction of becoming more like Christ.