Help! My Volunteers are Afraid of Students
The key to speaking into students’ lives is to build relationships with them. I tell our staff all the time, “Be a leader worth following.” Leaders worth following build relationships based on one goal: seeing a student grow closer to the Lord. Relationships can start out fun and crazy, but they need to have a goal, a point when the youth worker asks the student to make changes in his or her life based on God’s word. The students will be willing to only if youth workers have taken the time to invest in them.
Relationship building comes easy for many youth workers—it’s why we got into the ministry. We have a passion for students. But your volunteers may not come by it as easily as you do. Training volunteers is tough. Many of them have a heart for service but are afraid of students. Here are some of the techniques I teach my own staff.
Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts. Find out what they like to do and do it with them. It’s best if you can find an activity that you both enjoy. Sit where students sit. Be around them, hang out in their world, and they will want to know why you are there.
“Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts.”
Discover a Student
Students are just waiting to be discovered. They want someone to unmask them and bring them out. When you discover them, they’ll give you their heart. At LeaderTreks our staff play a game called 100 questions. Whenever they spend time with students working, doing dishes, or just hanging out, they ask students questions designed to uncover who they are. The game is simple. You start by asking a question about the clothes they are wearing and continue to ask questions based on their answers. The idea is to catch them off guard. They are always willing to talk about clothes or school, but before they know it, they are answering questions about their parents and their relationship with Jesus Christ. The 100 questions game is not a flashy or new idea, but it will do the job of discovering a student.
Writing notes is the most powerful way of making a shallow relationship deeper. When I was a youth pastor, I would try to write six notes a day. Sounds like a lot, but I could do it in 15 minutes. I kept the body of the note the same and changed words to fit the student. Every letter started with “I was praying for you today.” Then I would tell the student what I prayed. If I had seen them in a game or a play, I would mention that. But each letter was short. The power of the note is in how it’s delivered. Many times I would put notes in their cars or on their windshields. If I could, I would find a way to get the notes in their lockers. The best way to deliver a letter is in a place where it is least expected. I have a youth pastor buddy who would take sick bags from planes and write notes on them and put them in the mail. He would often write, “I was sick about you missing youth group.” The postman would always deliver them!
Have a Purpose for the Relationship
Once you have developed a relationship with a student, never lose sight of the mission. Always use your conversations to challenge students to grow. Move the discussion to points of decisions. Ask students to make changes in their lives. Ask them if you can hold them accountable. Never lose your focus on growing the student.
The biggest mistake I see youth workers making is they think they know a student because they know the student’s other siblings or the student’s family. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure you have spent the time to know each student with whom you have influence. You will demonstrate to them that the program is not about you but about them. Once you have their hearts you will be able to challenge them with whatever God puts in your heart.
About the Author
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner who never leaves their side. Doug grew […]
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Hey Parents, Dr. Tim Elmore has a great conversation with Clay Scroggins about Helping the Next Gen Win.
Although a parent’s role in their children’s learning evolves as kids grow, one thing remains constant: we are our children’s learning models. Our attitudes about education can inspire theirs and show them how to take charge of their own educational journey.
Be a role model for learning. In the early years, parents are their children’s first teachers — exploring nature, reading together, cooking together, and counting together. When a young child begins formal school, the parent’s job is to show him how school can extend the learning you began together at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be. As preschoolers grow into school age kids, parents become their children’s learning coaches. Through guidance and reminders, parents help their kids organize their time and support their desires to learn new things in and out of school.
Pay attention to what your child loves. “One of the most important things a parent can do is notice her child. Is he a talker or is he shy? Find out what interests him and help him explore it. Let your child show you the way he likes to learn,” recommends Dalton Miller-Jones, Ph.D.
Tune into how your child learns. Many children use a combination of modalities to study and learn. Some learn visually through making and seeing pictures, others through tactile experiences, like building block towers and working with clay. Still others are auditory learners who pay most attention to what they hear. And they may not learn the same way their siblings (or you) do. By paying attention to how your child learns, you may be able to pique his interest and explain tough topics by drawing pictures together, creating charts, building models, singing songs and even making up rhymes.
Practice what your child learns at school. Many teachers encourage parents to go over what their young children are learning in a non-pressured way and to practice what they may need extra help with. This doesn’t mean drilling them for success, but it may mean going over basic counting skills, multiplication tables or letter recognition, depending on the needs and learning level of your child. “There may be times to review, but don’t take on the role of drill master,” adds Diane Levin, Ph.D. ” And when you do review it should feel as if your child wants to be a part of the practice.”
Set aside time to read together. Read aloud regularly, even to older kids. If your child is a reluctant reader, reading aloud will expose her to the structure and vocabulary of good literature and get her interested in reading more. “Reading the first two chapters of a book together can help, because these are often the toughest in terms of plot,” notes Susan Becker, M. Ed. “Also try alternating: you read one chapter aloud, she reads another to herself. And let kids pick the books they like. Book series are great for reluctant readers. It’s OK to read easy, interesting books instead of harder novels.”
Connect what your child learns to everyday life. Make learning part of your child’s everyday experience, especially when it comes out of your child’s natural questions. When you cook together, do measuring math. When you drive in the car, count license plates and talk about the states. When you turn on the blender, explore how it works together. When your child studies the weather, talk about why it was so hot at the beach. Have give-and-take conversations, listening to your child’s ideas instead of pouring information into their heads.
Connect what your child learns to the world. Find age-appropriate ways to help your older child connect his school learning to world events. Start by asking questions. For example, ask a second-grader if she knows about a recent event, and what’s she heard. Then ask what she could do to help (such as sending supplies to hurricane victims). You might ask a younger child if he’s heard about anything the news, and find out what he knows. This will help your child become a caring learner.
Help your child take charge of his learning. “We want to keep children in charge of their learning and become responsible for it,” says Dalton Miller-Jones, Ph.D. “We want them to be responsible for their successes and failures, show them how engaging learning is, and that the motivations for learning should be the child’s intrinsic interests, not an external reward.”
Don’t over-schedule your child. While you may want to supplement school with outside activities, be judicious about how much you let or urge your child to do. Kids need downtime as much as they may need to pursue extra-curricular activities. “If a child has homework and organized sports and a music lesson and is part of a youth group in church or synagogue, it can quickly become a joyless race from one thing to another. Therefore, monitor your child to see that he is truly enjoying what he is doing. If he isn’t, cut something off the schedule,” advises Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
Keep TV to a minimum. “Watching lots of TV does not give children the chance to develop their own interests and explore on their own, because it controls the agenda,” advises Diane Levin, Ph.D. “However, unstructured time with books, toys, crafts and friends allows children to learn how to be in charge of their agenda, and to develop their own interests, skills, solutions and expertise.”
Learn something new yourself. Learning something new yourself is a great way to model the learning process for your child. Take up a new language or craft, or read about an unfamiliar topic. Show your child what you are learning and how you may be struggling. You’ll gain a better understanding of what your child is going through and your child may learn study skills by watching you study. You might even establish a joint study time.
There is a great debate about when to give your student their FIRST CELL PHONE.
The FREE EBOOK above is a helpful guide with tips and tricks to EASE YOU IN to the CELL PHONE CRAZE!