Good relationships are vital in children’s and youth ministry. Understanding the young people you serve and disciple makes the difference between connecting with them instead of just transferring information to them.
Sometimes the young people you meet with have been part of the group longer than you have, others are fresh without a familiar background. No matter how long they’ve been around, it is a great idea to stop and think about how well you know them. Below are some things to consider as you understand your group. The better we know our young people, the better we are at helping them follow and serve Jesus.
What should we know about them?
WHO ARE THEY
The context of a young person’s life is necessary in discipling them. They each have a story, but they may not realise this. Take time to find out details about key areas like:
Family, Friends, School, Interests and Significant Life Events. Create a mental picture of what an average day might be like for them. Learn more of the things that have shaped them – have they moved, faced illness or death in their family, experienced family or friendship break down. The pieces won’t all come together immediately, but over time a clearer picture of this young person will emerge.
WHERE ARE THEY WITH JESUS
If you have not directly talked to a young person about their relationship with Jesus, it is best not to assume where this relationship is up to, or even if there is one at all. With each young person you interact with, find out if they understand the gospel and whether they have accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Talk about what the fruit of their faith might look like in their lives, with all the more relevance as you know them more deeply.
How can we do this?
It is obvious, but ask questions. Be interested and engaged, clearly caring about the young person before you. They may not think it is particularly interesting that they have 2 brothers, a sister and live with their grandmother, or they may be hesitant to open up if they don’t think they match what is ‘normal’. Demonstrate that it is safe to share and that everyone’s story is worth hearing.
LISTEN & LOOK
Not all things will come out of a conversation, and taking time to observe a young person will be invaluable as you understand more of their personality, character, values and maturity.
What do they talk about frequently? What topics do they avoid? How do they deal with others who are different? What is their response in adversity? Much can be learned as you share life together both in and out of group time.
While this is not comprehensive, be encouraged to pursue a whole picture of each young person outside of the few hours you may interact with them in the week.
Show how much you value them by your interest.
Model the depth of relationship we have in Jesus’ family.
Pray that they may understand more of what it looks like to represent Jesus, as the person they have been made to be, with the experiences they have had.
Celebrate the story of how Jesus has shaped them and look forward to how he will shape them in the future.
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