Helpful Things: Communicate Effectively with Your Youth
By Crysten Sanchez
We here at Higher Things are excited about the opportunity to continue to equip youth leaders, regardless of the setting, size, and dynamic of your group!
Our events executive, Crysten Sanchez, has extensive experience working with youth in church, camp, and conference settings. She'd like to share with you some helpful communication tips to use as you seek to nurture a sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness amongst your youth.
A foundation of your relationships with your youth is to be sincere with everything you say. Look them in the eye when you speak to them. Eye contact fosters better communication and creates a bond of sincerity.
Visit one-on-one with each of your youth. Ask them about home, school, friends, and their dreams. By talking with them you show you value them as people and they can respond by valuing your relationship. A quick wink and a compliment goes a long way. Each moment spent with each youth builds on the previous one to strengthen your bond.
Watch for opportunities to praise and affirm. Catch your youth doing something right! “Thank yous” given for helpful discussion in Bible Study, admiration for great effort put into a service project, or applauding any accomplishment will reap a great harvest of good feelings and positive self-worth.
Individuals working together to accomplish a mutual goal will develop camaraderie, trust, and a sense of purpose. Projects large or small, long term or short term build a team spirit that extends beyond the times you meet at church. Youth leader/youth relationships can grow even during unpleasant tasks.
Asking and Thanking
Asking for help is not only an effective way to reach shy and quiet youth, but also a great way to keep the whole group involved. When you single out an individual, you draw attention to his or her important position in the group. When the task is complete, say “thank you” to reinforce the value of the youth’s involvement. Once that individual knows you value him/her as a responsible member of the group, he or she will be more likely to respond to your needs or the needs of the group.
Encourage informal discussion as well as the more formal discussions (Bible Studies, group devotions, etc.). These discussions allow everyone to get to know each other (and you) as interesting people and as friends in the faith--brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is good to have a protocol in place with your pastor and other adult leaders, should a discussion move to a socially sensitive topic. It may not be appropriate to continue socially sensitive group discussions that could distress other youth. Socially sensitive issues may include, but are not limited to, controlled substances, dating and sexuality, cults, death, and family situations such as divorce and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
Appropriate Physical Touching
Proper touching, especially with babies and young children, is essential to a person's development. However, make sure you use common sense in touching youth. Be certain that touching is appropriate in your particular situation and setting. A “touch” when accompanied by verbal praise and affirmation can reinforce lessons and build wonderful relationships in a positive way.
Crysten Sanchez has been blessed to work for HT in one way or another since 2010. While also working as a Youth Coordinator through those years, Crysten solidified her opinion on youth: they aren't given as much credit as they deserve, and we "grown ups" can learn just as much from them as they can learn from us.
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