#7 Approach with authenticity. We all have misconceptions of people, especially students. I missed this a lot when I began in ministry because I had a false understanding of how to respond to people. What about when it comes to parenting? I think that in today's culture parents are more afraid of their students than ever before. Why do I say this? Because sometimes the negative way students respond to authority. We are afraid they will get "mad." So what do we do? Not challenge them and just teach "fluffy" messages. I say no. Let's discuss some misconceptions of how youth leaders and parents might approach students.
Common approaches to students: The apathetic student: Many respond with, "they are too spoiled rotten!" - Yes, it is true. Many have way more than they should and never learn how to earn things through hard work. But many times we think that is all there is to it. Most parents who pour absorbent amounts of money into the children do it out of guilt or making up for what they lacked as a child. A close, intimate relationship with them will matter more than their material possessions.
The unchurched student - Lost parents respond with, "since they enjoy church, they must be only playing games" - One of my all-time most frustrating parenting decisions is grounding a student from church. Why would you keep your student away from hearing God's Word and being invested in by adult leaders? Some feel that isolating their child is the answer. Others feel that their student never dones anything wrong. These two extreme examples teach a student to go through life blaming others for their own mistakes. Why not teach them to give love, give forgiveness and give encouragement to others.
The popular student: Their family responds with, "We are just too busy." - We have put sports, activities and performance above being faithful to church and growing spiritually in a small group. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the excuse of "too much homework" to trump the commitment to Bible study. We are possibly raising up spiritually dead but socially accepted students. Do we care more about their relationship with God or impressing a college scout, professor or job opportunity?
The "Not my baby" parent: They fear their children more than God. The response is, "My children will reject God if we are too committed" - We are more concerned with their grades, future scholarships and outward accolades than God's calling and their spiritual growth. Many times we are wanting to be their "best friend" and not their parent or youth leader. Are we are afraid of rejection from our students at times? I think so. I don't like rejection and I'm sure you do not either!
What are some healthy, biblical responses to students?
Be authentic: Usually what students reveal at church, camp or an activity is simply a mirror of what they are taught in the home. If you make a mistake, own up to it and ask forgiveness. Set the example of being humble and authentic especially in the home and when you lead students. We need less focus upon the outward and more focus upon the inward. They hunger for authenticity. Although they rarely express gratitude, they do appreciate you being there for them as parents.
Biblical worldview: One of the greatest ways to approach students is through a biblical worldview. It is taking the time to process their choices through the lens of scripture. Only then will we understand God's story. The entire story of God's Word is outlined in God's creation, the fall, the cross, and redemption. In order to respond correctly our hearts need to be in line with God's story of redemption.
Be passionate. Maybe we should steer them towards the gospel story. Remove the spiritual checklist and replace it with love that flows out of a relationship with God. Even when they push you away, never back down from the truth of obedience to Christ. Overall, we should care about their soul than their immediate happiness.
What misconceptions have you had in responding to students? In the home? In the ministry?