You think it sometimes, I just said it.
I do not really know how else to say it, but sometimes the only way to describe how we feel about some students: “You’re being a butt-head”. We love them to death. We pour our lives out to them and for them. We want nothing more to see them grow in their faith and walk closer with Jesus but their choices and attitude show otherwise. It can be tough because you know they have the capability to do amazing things but for some reason, they are doing dumb things, and as youth workers it breaks our hearts.
I just talked with a mom this week who’s son I am really close to and she was venting to me about how she wants her son to love Jesus so much and that he was doing so good in his walk with Jesus and then in one weekend everything changed and he made some pretty bold, not so smart moves and is slowly going down hill. She asked me if I can non chalantly spark up conversation with him and see what is going on in his life, which for me (I thought) would be no problem because we have done this numerous times while hanging out getting coffee or food. We have had a great, open, talks about anything and everything relationship. So I called him to see if he wanted to hang out and instead of jumping at the chance (like he normally does) he was short and rude with me and brushed me off. I tried to hang out with him a few more time and again, brushed off and more bad decisions.
So what do you do? What can you do? What do you do when your heart breaks for a student who has so much potential and they are not going that way at all? How can you minister to them even if they are pushing you away?
- Dont stop trying– We might seem annoying, but it’s important for them to know you have not forgotten about them. If they don’t show up for a while or are out of communication, a simple text, voicemail, or note will let them know you are still there for them and they will know this. We never want the reason for them not coming back is because they felt we as their leader forgot about them when they were far away.
- Dont stop praying– This sounds simple but it can get lost in the everyday business or ministry. Even just letting them know you are praying for them, and then actually pray for them will go further than you can ever imagine. Maybe God will work on their heart and prompt them to talk to you.
- Talk to their friends– If they wont talk to you, they talk to friends. For the student above, I went to one of his best friends in our group and asked him to minister to him because he would not meet with me, and it seems to be working. (I only did this because I knew this student was mature enough to do this. Make sure that student wont do more damage than not).
- Wait for them to come back– You can’t do much to help someone who does not want to be helped. So we wait. Like the prodigal son, we wait until they return and when they do, no matter how far they stepped away and what they did, you welcome them back with open arms and love on them. Hopefully they do come back, if not, repeat steps 1-3.
What are some other ways in which you communicate to students who all of the sudden want nothing to do with you or our group?