One of the best investments you will ever make in youth ministry is the time spent on developing relationships with your students. I speak with youth workers all the time who get caught up in programming or administrative duties and have a hard time connecting with teens. My hope is that this post will help provide you with some practical ideas that will enable you to fight the paperwork and will empower you to lengthen your relational stride.
I want to share with you 10 ways you can improve your relational ministry:
1. Personal invite - We send out our fair share of mass mailings and texts but there is nothing like a personal invite. Take a moment before your next event and personally text your students. You might be surprised at the response you get.
2. Worship together - If you are not leading on-stage during your next worship service take the opportunity to sit with your students. You'll never know how much worshiping with your teens will mean to them.
3. Meet the parents - There doesn't seem to be as many youth workers making home visits these days as there use to be, but arranging a visit to the home of your student will go a long way in building a relationship with both the parent & the student! You'll learn a lot about the family dynamics too by showing up on their turf. (Note: give the parents a heads up that you plan to stop by. Most people don't like surprise guests)
4. Host a group - I frequently have groups of teens in my home. I love to host bible studies or impromptu fellowship opportunities. Why not host a small group or invite a group of teens to your home (with appropriate adult-to-student ratio) and share life together.
5. Visit them at work - You can show your support for teens on the job! Find out where students work (whether that be a fast-food restaurant, clothing retailer, or coffee shop) and when they work, and drop by for a quick visit.
6. Waiting period - Arrive early or plan to stay late after your next event to spend some time to chit-chat with teens on-site. Making the most of this time to have intentional conversations with students will go a long way in growing your relationship with them.
7. Prayer - I love praying for my students and I take the opportunity very seriously. Offer to pray for your students and then make sure to follow-up later to see how God worked through prayer. The prayer investment will prove very meaningful to your relationship.
8. Social media - Comment or reply on your student's Facebook page, Twitter, or whatever social medium they use. You can learn a lot about a teen by what you read on their facebook, but take a few extra moments to make some comments on their wall (whenever appropriate).
9. Hobbies - Attend a sporting event, concert or do some other activity together with your teen. This opportunity will not only help you do something fun with the teens in your ministry but it will help improve your relationship with them.
10. Sharing - Take some time to share with your students. Give some focused attention to a teen and get to know them. Be willing to share your story with them too. When you hear them out you might find that you have a captive audience to be able to share more about your life. Most teens want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them.
The Lord is at work redeeming and sanctifying a people for Himself.