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The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us. Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time. When it comes to teenagers it’s so important to see the time that you have with them as temporary. Granted after graduation they could stay local, even minister in your church as adults; however, the relationship you have with them will drastically change. As youth ministers the relationship you have with teenagers should be about preparing them for the next chapter of their life. If you are middle school youth minister it’s about getting them ready for high school. In high school it’s getting them ready for life after graduation whether that’s college or the working world. Again, it’s all about getting them ready for the future.
So what does a relationship that works for the future look like? It involves:
- Mentorship – The best thing you can do for your teenagers is hooking them up with an adult who is going to pour into them while they are in your ministry. Whether it’s a small group leader or someone to just meet one on one, you want an adult who is going to encourage them to develop spiritual habits that they can take on to the next chapter of life. This is a relationship where the teen knows, “If I can’t go to mom or dad, I’ll always have…” It’s giving them another affirming voice in their life.
- Peer To Peer Accountability – On top of an adult who will pour into them you want to surround them with peers who will do the same. Small groups should be the foundation of your ministry because it shows teens how they can find faith filled relationships with people their own age. It shows that not all of their peers will judge them and how they can be a light to people their own age.
- Consistent Opportunities – Any relationships that you form with teens need to be consistent, that’s why youth ministry should all be about building steps and not events. Events and retreats can have an impact; however, they don’t guarantee life long relationships. The relationships we build with students need to be consistent. That means consistently reaching out to them and letting them know when they can consistently find you.
- Challenging Experiences – You want to make sure that your teens are engaging in relationships outside of the church that are challenging. This can be found in service as well as in evangelization. While hard to practice, even as adults, it’s necessary if you want your teens to “Go and make disciples”. While you can preach on the subject, it might be best to give them experiences that will challenge them to live their faith outward. Take them on service projects around the community or ask them about friends they have who don’t have a church home. Get them to think outwardly so that they can see that Christianity isn’t a consumeristic club but a movement to grow God’s kingdom. As they look to shape a future career, they’ll take this selfless attitude to mind.
The relationships you have with your teens are the most temporary ones you’ll have in ministry. They’ll start out as impressionable minds, then they will develop opinions and mature before you can even blink. It’s a humbling and powerful experience, one that we should be learning from. The more you guide them into healthy and accountable relationships the more you’ll examine your own.
What’s your largest obstacle to being relational with teens?