If you have ever had a student come to you and share that they were cutting or their parents are splitting up, they struggle with their self image or a host of other issues, then the seminar we held at this year’s convention for our church family was for you. We know many couldn’t make it but we were glad that over 40 of you did attend.

I took lots of notes and found what Tiger offered to be some great practical tips and insights for anyone in any of those situations.

I’m going to do my best in this post to name as many of the teaching points that he offered

Insight #1 – There is a transition that has occurred in youth ministry from one of fun, to talking to kids to dealing with the messes in their lives.

Insight #2 – Youth ministry doesn’t need simply youth workers to be cool and relevant; it needs them more to be caring and honest.

Insight #3 – We often get to be some of the first responders in a crisis and for a variety of reasons. For example…

o we are more approachable then most new counselors
o families don’t like to admit problems so coming to us is more palatable
o we’ve earned trust, we already have the therapeutic alliance as opposed to a strange counselor
o we are accessible
o we offer a spiritual side
o working with youth workers can be a stigma-less event which lessens the fears
o we are cheap and involve no paperwork

Insight #4 – A crisis is any situation that overwhelms a person’s normal coping mechanism

Insight #5 – Here are some helpful things to know about working in these situations.

  •   You help people, you don’t fix people’s problems
  •   You can’t always fix the problem
  •   We like to say do this, stop that, BUT that doesn’t work
  •   Instead: What can I do to be most helpful today?
  •   Practice the ministry of presence
  •   The goal is to bring restoration, not perfection, to restore wholeness
  •   You can’t plan crisis and often other issues pop up from the pastInsight #6 – Understanding how change happens is vital
    •   Rarely does radical change happen overnight
    •   Change is often more like a two degree change of the front of the ship. When a ship changes course just a few degrees the initial change looks small but over a lifetime it is enormous.Insight #7 – Learn to pick up the cues that people leave us
      IE: Sometimes people don’t want to get well and they make statements that declare just that
      IE: Explore the statement of ‘we can’t afford this’…often there is more to itInsight #8 – Watch out for opportunities to get stuck between parents and kids (triangulation)

A scenario for that would be if a mom calls and asks for you to talk to her son and then she expects for you to report back. You have three options which are simply to learn to say yes, to say no or to figure out how to collapse that triangle.

And at the same time you do any of those, keep in mind the call to love that parent and student and consider how breaking a student’s trust will hurt that relationship and have consequences with other students.

Insight #9 – Know the situations which make you a mandatory reporter. (note, these are regardless of role as staff or volunteer)

  1.   Physical abuse
  2.   Sexually harmed
  3.   Declare intent to harm self
  4.   Declare intent to harm another

Check local laws for correctives to those statements

Insight #10 – Know your role and know your limits. Here are some good suggestions towards that.

  1. If you are not a counselor, then you are not a counselor.
  2. Set session limits to 3 times. That is the max that we can deal with. It is also a sign that the issue is beyond us.
  3. If you go past 3 visits, tell someone and be intentional.
  4. Don’t use words that merely point to stopping a behavior. We find it easy to say “stop it” but that is a very useless activity.
  5. Make the circle bigger of people involved (professionals/pastors/parents). Find them.
  6. Seek the student’s health, not their approval – don’t be a people pleaser.
  7. Name the issue, get student to say out loud. There is something powerful that happens by audibly admitting things.
  8. Get curious about other issues related to circumstances.

Insight #11 – Here are 4 key questions you should ask yourself

1. Why am I here?
2. What do I have to offer this person?
3. What does this person need?
4. What are my limits?

Insight #12 – Know when to refer and who to refer people to and also know that you might just get used by God beyond your skill set.

The following are some definite areas to refer:

  1. Eating disorders
  2. Competence limits
  3. Abuse

Feel free to use these notes in any situation or leadership training opportunity in front of you. I hope these are a help as do I hope the training with Tiger was. We were only permitted to livestream the event, so we are not allowed to release that recording.


Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.

Building your Youth Ministry via your Children's Ministry
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