Here are five common ones I see newbies miss all the time.
- “I’m just hanging out” or “I just thought I’d drop by because I was bored.” If you have a student that stays late or is just hanging around or lingers longer than usual or drops by the office for no real reason– it isn’t an accident. There is always a reason. They want to talk and are waiting for you to take the initiative. And sometimes when they do this you’re going to have to build a little repoire before they share what’s really going on.
- That student in the back isn’t paying attention. This is a frustration that comes out of youth workers all the time. Stop it. It doesn’t mean what you think it means at all! It’s easy to think that a student who is sitting in the back, looking at the wall, or just looks like they aren’t paying attention isn’t paying attention or is being disrespectful. My experience is that they are usually paying attention and soaking in more than the kids who being compliant, smiling, responsive teenagers in the front row. If they weren’t there for an encounter with God they wouldn’t be there. Period.
- The student who wants to be a up front is a leader. Nope. Up front skills and spiritual leadership are two different things. When I was in youth group I was up front, leading games, and even leading a small group before I even gave my life to Jesus. Some people are born leaders and lead wherever they go. Students who like to be part of your leadership teams might be just as lost and trying to figure it out as the dude in the back who stares at his iPod the whole time.
- Spiritual maturity and physical maturity are two different things. This is really hard for adults to grasp. But if you do youth ministry for any length of time you will meet students who are just as spiritually mature, or who are MORE mature, than most of the adults in your church. You don’t have to be 50 and have kids in college to be mature in Christ. How do you judge spiritual maturity? Fruit. Stop looking down on students because they are young. Bottom line on that one.
- They aren’t ready for theology. Ugh. Any time a youth worker says this I want to punch them in the face. I actually had a methodist youth worker say this recently via a Facebook message. My response: “How old were the founders of Methodism when they got started? Look it up.” Yeah, don’t underestimate what the teenage brain can handle. You can’t tell me that an 11th grader who just wrote a 5 page paper on Whitman’s use of symbolism isn’t ready for some theology. Just because you’d rather play video games than study doesn’t mean that every student is like you. A big reason they eventually bail is because they are bored and the faith that you are exhibiting is boring compared to what they read in the Bible.
These are the misreads I see all of the time. What am I missing?