Do You Force Jesus Into The Conversation?

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Had lunch with a former student the other day.  It was a good time, we just chatted.  He told me what was going on in his life, how he enjoyed the job he had just started working and we ate burritos.  It’s funny because it was definitely the most relaxing one on one I’ve had with a student in a long time.  At first I couldn’t figure out why and then I realized I was just letting it happen.  The conversation just flowed, no agenda, just a chance to relax and catch up.
There are times I find myself trying to force Jesus into the conversation.  It might sound funny, but when ever you force a conversation it’s like mixing oil and water.  But, there have been those times meeting with a student and I would hear them say something, and immediately I would tell myself, “If I don’t talk to them about their relationship with God, then I’m failing them as a youth minister, right?”  But when I do that, all I’m really accomplishing is something similar to what author Jon Acuff calls a Jesus Juke.  

“the Jesus Juke is when someone takes what is clearly a joke filled conversation and completely reverses direction into something serious and holy.”

Granted the conversation could be serious; however, if I move from conversation mode into preaching mode, I can be counterproductive.  So how does it happen?  It’s usually due to the fact that you are:

  • Not Listening – Sometimes teens just want to share what’s going on in their life and they don’t need/want God’s wisdom, what they need/want is Jesus’ listening ear.  A teen might be venting, sorting things out and all they need to know is that someone cares.  When you don’t listen and just give advice you can give off the impression that you care more about hearing yourself than them. 
  • Taken AbackYou are surprised, and overwhelmed.  Instead of allowing the moment to fold out, pilot mode kicks in and you start speaking Christianese.  It’s like you have the right intentions; however, your actions don’t match up.  Big words emerge from your lips as you speak and you wonder, “Does any of this make sense?” Sometimes the best response is none at all.  When tension hits the tendency is to run and hide; however, you just need to lean in and trust God.  Let Him guide you through the silence and awkwardness.  
  • Emotionally Triggered – Something sets you off and you feel like you have to get a point across.  Maybe they are getting something off their ches, that triggers a memory, an insecurity or a judgment.  Instead of allowing them to flesh it out, you judge them and get on your soap box about how they immediately need Jesus.  There is a time to preach and one on one mentoring isn’t really that time.  Emotions are healthy; however, if we are driven by them we can make it about us and not Christ.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to your teens about Jesus outside of small groups and church.  You just need to recognize the situation God has placed you in and the role he wants you to embrace.  Build the relationship, bring Christ in not just with your words but with your actions.  What that means is sharing His love by listening, sitting still and leaning into the tension.  When the time is right God will give you the words, after all hasn’t He before?

How else do we Jesus Juke our teens?