One of the high priorities in our youth ministry is that each student has a caring adult in their life who loves God and has a heart for them, even on their bad days.
As Josh Shipp has stated,
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
We want to put caring adults – youth leaders – into the lives of each student in our ministry so that they will have someone who is not only caring but actively present in their lives. So, to ensure that each of our youth leaders knows how to do this, we have set before them a few simple ways that they can be present in the lives of our students.
There are a million ways students need us be present in their lives. Not all of them are easy. And we can’t be there for every student every day. But we can do for a few what we wish we could do for everyone. Because they need a leader who celebrates them on their best days, and who loves them their worst days. And they need a leader who does this on his or her best days and worst days, too.
Being present in a student’s life can look like a lot of different things. Each one means something different but is equally important to a student. It can look like…
- Praying for them. Lots of praying for them.
- Showing up to small group consistently. Even if you’re dead tired and no one seems to care that you’re there.
- Continuing to call and text them, even when they reply only with “yes,” “no” and “OK,” trusting that one day the dam will break and another vocabulary will come rushing through. (Especially when dealing with middle schoolers, people!)
- Keeping up with a 12-messages-per-second group text when it does happen.
- Having a hard conversation about what you’re seeing them post on Instagram.
- Sitting with them long after group time has ended, when words fail both of you and there are only tears.
- Answering your phone at midnight.
- Answering your phone at work.
- Sending a card just because.
- Calling their parents when you need to, even if they don’t want you to.
- Driving over an hour in traffic, to run full speed through a parking lot, to throw $10 at the ticket man, to wave your homemade sign during a 2-minute cheer routine.
- Sliding into a side hallway to pray with them during a morning service.
- Being willing to disagree with them and challenge them to look at things from a less comfortable angle, even if it means they get frustrated with you.
- Being willing to make a fool of yourself to entertain them or get a point across.
- Sticking up for them.
- Digging deeper with them into the Bible to find answers to questions you had to honestly answer with, “I don’t know.”
- Apologizing to them when you used a tone you shouldn’t have used or said something you shouldn’t have said.
- Loving on their parents and families.
- Being crazy outwardly excited about their decision to be baptized.
- Knowing what their “outside of church” world looks like and asking specific questions about it often.
- Staying up until 3 am on retreat weekends listening intently to heart after heart pour out. Then crawling into a sleeping bag on the floor for four hours of sleep. (Or two hours of silent prayer and processing, and two hours of sleep.)
- Modeling your own relationship with Jesus as a priority.
- Practicing what you preach.
- Letting go of the Monday morning blues until after small group ends at 7:30 pm on Sunday night.
- Making an Instagram account and liking their posts.
- Sitting in the cold rain, watching an entire game in which they only play for the last 30 seconds. (And cheering as loud as you can for all 30 seconds.)
- Hugging or high fiving them every Sunday morning.
- Following up on things they told you they’re struggling with.
- Sharing your personal stories of struggles.
- Putting your phone away.
- Encouraging them to serve others and doing it alongside them.
- Helping them find their unique gifts and encouraging them to use them.
- Believing they can change the world around them by doing so.
- Telling them you’ll never give up on them. And following through on that promise.