Students crave the attention of an older adult that takes an interest in them. Just go up to a middle school student and show interest in his or her life and you will become one of their best friends. High school students may not be that quick, but the principle is still the same.
So how does this impact our student ministry? We know students need something from older, Godly adults, but what is it exactly they need? I believe there are a few things that students need from a youth leader. This can be from the student pastor or a volunteer in the ministry.
Someone whom they can follow towards Jesus. Before you get all “super spiritual” on me and say students don’t need to follow a person they need to follow Jesus, let me share with you Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul knew he was following Jesus in such a way he could tell others to follow him. This wasn’t a prideful suggestion, but a humble recommendation of a man who knew Whom he was following. Students need youth leaders who are following Jesus in such a way they can look them in the eyes and say “follow me.”
Someone who really loves them. Students are looking for someone who will accept them for who they are and love them through their struggles. Students in our culture are struggling with addictions, relationships, and faith. They need youth leaders who will spend less time judging them and spending more time loving them with a Christ-centered love. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have to approve of their sin, but we need to hate the sin so much, we need to love them in such a way as to help them overcome whatever it is in their life. I am always encouraging youth leaders to not be afraid to get down and dirty with their student’s struggles. Students need youth leaders who will do just that.
Someone who will enforce the rules. I wasn’t sure of the best way to title this last point, but I hope to get the idea across. Students will never admit it, but they enjoy rules and boundaries. I am always encouraging my youth leaders to enforce rules and not be afraid to be the authority figure to students. This goes back to the point before, when you really love them you will have to be the “bad guy” at times. Students don’t need another adult who just lets them do whatever they want, they need an adult who will be an authority figure, who will help them mature into young adults for the glory of God.
I could go on and on, but I believe these are three of the most important things students need from their youth leaders. I have seen these areas come up time and time again in my ministry and want to continue encouraging youth leaders to be the type of adults students need.
This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Rachel Blom’s Youth Leaders Academy. YLA is a great site with tons of training content for student pastors and youth workers.