I love the model of relational ministry. My push is to get the leadership team to stop clumping together in back walls. Youth ministry is not the place for adults to congregate and get caught up on each other’s lives. Get involved people! Yet, there is something that can happen from time to time where there can be “too much” relational ministry. A leader steps up to get to know students and unwittingly creates a “clique” of student followers. It’s rarely intentional. Perhaps a handful of students want to tell you alone about their problems. It could be that others think you are the “coolest” leader in the bunch.
The question becomes at the other end of the spectrum, “Can there be TOO MUCH relationship?” I think so. What are the “over the top warning signs?” Here are a few questions to ask whether you are a paid youth worker or a volunteer:
Are You Creating Cliques?
Has it gotten to the point where students follow you to the detriment of interacting with anyone else? Are they separating themselves from other leaders and students just to be with you? Remember teens like to feel special. The attention you give makes them feel set a part in a good way. However, if they are now standing away from the rest of the group, this could cause division. Most groups have natural lines drawn already with kids from rival schools attending the same group. They don’t need us to help them stay a part.
Are You More Important To Them Than Jesus?
It’s not on purpose, but there are times when we become the “god” to our students. When they text, call or talk to us they hear an audible voice and may even receive a tangible hug. It’s easier to “feel” close to us leaders than the Lord sometimes. We have to remember to not answer every question, phone call or text. They need to know we are fallible, but they serve an infallible God.
Are You Replacing Their Parents?
As youth leaders we like to use the phrase “our kids,” often. This helps others to know we have taken ownership of a particular group of students. However, if a student is talking about their “horrible parents” and we agree with them, a shift may happen in our hearts. We decide we can do a better job than their current care takers. Yet, if there is not a situation that requires us to call a state agency, they will continue to live with their parents. We must be VERY careful before we know it we have added to the issues at home.
Do You Need Teen Friends?
It makes us “feel good” when a student “picks us” as their favorite. We come to believe maybe, just maybe we are doing a decent job at this. Yet, we have to look in our hearts. Before we know it a relationship with a teen can shift to being unhealthy. Are we allowing relationships to get a little closer because it fills a need? If your only “friends” are teens and you are over the age of 21 then you need to take a hard look at your motivation.
Don’t be afraid. Jesus shows us that relational ministry has power. Yet, it’s good to be aware as we embark on this journey at how much is too much.
– Leneita / @leneitafix
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