Why You Will Scar Your Teens

Courtesy of cynthiacloskey/
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Growing up I was a retreat junky.  Basically, if there was a retreat happening at my church or a friend’s church, I went on it.  And, if I was eligible I would apply (and most times) make the leadership team.  It was a rush, something I wanted, it was the way I experienced youth ministry.

Then in my senior I got what felt like a low blow.  I was told that I would not be on the leadership team of my church for the next retreat.  It was to be my last retreat in high school, so I was upset and needed to know why I wasn’t being chosen.  The youth minister told me, that because of my family situation that she felt that, “I was not emotionally stable to lead.”  Ouch, it hurt.  That decision hurt so much that I seriously considered leaving the church all together.

When I became a youth minister I told myself that I never wanted to do that to another teen.  But, as hard as I try I know that scarring a teen is inevitable.  One day I might say or do something that’s going to hurt them.  My hope is it’s not anything too deep, that they would question their faith.
No one in youth ministry wants to scar a teen; however, because of our human nature we are at risk of doing it all the time.  Why?  Because we are human and we are susceptible to pride, carelessness, and a lack of focus.  To avoid the deep wounds we nee to make sure we discipline with love, communicate clearly and show transparency, especially in these scar prone areas:

  • Canceling A One On One – Believe it or not that teen wants to meet with you, even if it was your idea.  If you have to cancel on a teen make sure you have a plan to follow up with them right away.  If it’s because of an emergency make sure the next time you see them that you have a clear and honest explanation of what happened.  Lastly, don’t make canceling on them a habit.
  • Firing Them From Ministry – A teen who is asked to step down from a leadership role will feel like they are being asked to leave the church.  To combat this feeling make sure their parent (Or small group leader) is there to affirm your caring love and knock down anything the teen might misinterpret.  Doesn’t matter the reason for why you are asking them to leave, just make sure it doesn’t come off you want them to stop following Christ.
  • Being Human – Whether you like it or not you are a role model in faith to these students.  You might be the primary link between them and Christ; therefore, seeing your sinful nature will cut them deep.  Don’t be afraid to share your humanity by being honest and authentic in your conversations.  Don’t feel like you have to always have the answer and embrace when you are wrong.  By being real with them, they’ll be more likely to give you grace when you need it.
  • Joking Around – If you are like me then you can go too far with the teasing and joking around.  Maybe you know some insider information about a student that if revealed, even in a joking manner, will cut them like a knife.  You want to be fun in their presence; however, at what costs will you go to make sure others are laughing?  If you hurt the teens with your jokes, then all you are to them is a bully.
Again, there are many ways (Intentionally and Unintentionally) we can scar a teen in our own ministry.  The goal is to make sure that you own up to your mistakes and pour into them with love and humility.  If you can do that then you are not only providing an environment that cares for them; but, a picture of how their Heavenly Father works in their life.
How else can a teen be scarred in youth ministry?  Is it possible to avoid this?