While each teen in your community is different there is probably one thing they have in common. Every teen in your community desires to be connected into a real and authentic relationship.
The problem is that many of them don’t know where to find it. They search in school, in clubs and online. They should find it in your ministry. Your ministry needs to be a place of authenticity because that will help teens connect into a personal relationship with Christ. To create that place you need to:
PROVIDE ENVIRONMENTS OF HOSPITALITY
When teens walk into your ministry they probably feel guarded. Even if they have been there before they are hoping that they will not be judged. Break down those walls by creating an environment of hospitality and love.
Put people by the door to welcome teens and learn their names. Assign adults to just float around the room and engage teens that are by themselves. Let the teenagers know that you are so happy they are there. Start building their trust.
BUILD STRUCTURES THAT ALLOW VULNERABILITY
For us that format is in small groups. While we tell all of our adults to be authentic we feel that small groups is where people have permission to be vulnerable. It’s a small group, where everyone is known and everyone can be heard.
To build the trust we allow consistency. We keep the same people in small groups for the duration of high school (or middle school). We also keep groups separated by gender, this will remove distractions and fears of impressing the opposite sex.
ENCOURAGE STORY SHARING
Everyone has a story to share and when those stories get shared wonderful things happen. The problem is no one wants to go first. As the youth leader you need to give that permission by leading in this area.
When you speak don’t just teach but share how it’s applied to your life. Invite other adults and teens to deliver a planned testimony and praise them publicly for doing so. While you might not have everyone give a public testimony it will encourage teens to open up and share in other opportunities.
DEVELOP A CULTURE OF PRAYER
Remind people that God needs to be a part of the conversation. Pray as much as you can throughout the time you spend with leaders and teens. When people feel connected with God they’ll be willing to open up more.
Remind the teens that they can go to God, when they don’t have anyone else to go to. When they trust God they’ll trust that He is surrounding them with the right people.
Build a ministry on authenticity and you’ll build a ministry on trust. When teens trust you, they’ll begin to see that Christ loves them. And when they see Christ loves them their desire to be connected with be filled. [reminder]
How do you build authentic relationships in your ministry? [/reminder]