Being a teenager is tough. I wish we could say that wasn’t the case, but especially in the world we live in, it is tough being a teenager. As one who works with students on a regular basis and who just barely survived parenting teenagers, the amount and variety of stressors students face are vastly different than when we were their age. Students are feeling the pressure of athletic competition, musical performances, classroom assignments, college acceptance, jobs and a pandemic. It is a lot.
A student ministry worker has to be more than just a Bible teacher and friend. Now, student ministry workers have to partner with parents and help watch out for the mental health of our students. It can be a bit overwhelming. However, we are taking some steps to help.
For the past couple of weeks and a few weeks to come, the Student Ministry Matters podcast is sharing a series of interviews with professional counselors from Fresh Roots Family Counseling of Rogers. So far, we have discussed helping our students during death and loss and helping our students as they deal with anxiety. Here are a few thoughts that stand out from these conversations:
• Be present. As students deal with death and loss, sometimes we just need to be there. We don’t have to say anything. We don’t have to offer flowery words. We can just sit and be available. They may want to talk. They may not. The ministry of presence can have a powerful impact.
• Be a listener. Not sure why, but many of us in ministry feel like we must have the answers. Ultimately, we do. We have God’s Word which provides hope and peace in a turbulent world. However, there are times when we just need to listen to our students as they share the hard things they are navigating. As the old saying goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we speak.”
• Be an observer. We need to keep an eye on the students in our ministry. I’m not talking about being a crazy online stalker, but we need to be aware of their lives in and outside of the church. God has placed us in their lives for a purpose. We, or a member of our adult volunteer team, may notice something that has eluded a parent’s eye. Keep your eyes open for changes in a student’s life.
• Be a partner. God has called us to a ministry of partnership with parents. If you notice changes in your students, don’t be afraid to talk to their parents. These families are a part of your “faith family.” Sometimes the conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable, but we need to have them because our students matter to us.
The emotional days of the teenage years can be hard. Pray for your students and learn as much as you can as you give them Jesus. Let me invite you to check out our podcast at studentministrymatters.podbean.com or through most major podcasting apps. If you have a student who is in a darker place, reach out to the team at Fresh Roots Family Counseling (freshrootsfamilycounseling.com) or a faith-based counselor near you.