Tools for Volunteers Dealing with Emotional Students

Our current series at Crossroads, Help! I’m A Teenagers, has done a lot to get our students to open up to our volunteer leaders. Over the last couple of weeks, our topics, or even better, the Holy Spirit, has prompted the students to share their stories with our leadership.

However, as the students shared their hurts, my leaders started sharing their sense of inadequacy. They have reached a great place. The more I heard about the stories our students were sharing, the more I knew God was working.

So at our Adult Leaders meeting this past Saturday, I shared three simple thoughts to help them process through those times of listening. Here is what I told them.

1. Discerning the truth from the story.
Students can sometimes tell wonderful tales of struggle and woe. But how much of it is true and how much of it is a story for your attention. I encouraged my leaders to listen with discernment to what is being shared. We can easily get swept up in the emotion of moment and draw conclusions that might not be accurate. So listen carefully. But before you draw that conclusion, make sure you have the whole story. Volunteer youth leaders should always check in with the lead youth worker. As the lead youth worker, we often know more about the family, student, and situation and can help decipher the truth from the story. And as a matter of practice, I like to know about the student as soon as possible.

2. Knowing that you can’t fix them.
We all have students who come from pretty tough situations. When we hear the difficulties, we want to rush in and fix whatever problems they have. But it isn’t that easy. We cannot fix our students. Christ is the only one who can fix anyone. So what is our role? We are the ones who listen, love, and pray.

3. You don’t not have all the answers.
Teens ask good questions. Sometimes those questions come with quick easy answers, but sometimes we are left speechless. I tell my leaders not to fear the tough questions. If you can answer the questions, go for it. But if you do not know the answer, be honest and tell them you don’t know the answer. An honest confession will go much further then an answer filled with error or misleading information. Tell them you don’t know the answer, but that you will try to find someone who can answer the question.

Inadequacy is a good thing. The sooner we know that we cannot do this job on our own, the faster we’ll realize how much we need to depend on God. As you minister to your students and to your adult leadership team, bathe them in prayer. It’s in our weakness that God displays His strength.

– jay

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