Our mission at Switch is to lead students to become fully devoted followers of Christ. As a leader, you’re playing a critical role in the eternities of so many students, but that can be a daunting task. We know that becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ looks different for every student, but we also know that we can’t reach students if we don’t first understand them. So, relax. You may not have all the answers, but there may be something better you can offer your students.
How can you equip your students not only to have faith but also to share it and keep it throughout adulthood? First, know that it’s our job to plant the seeds, but it’s God’s job to make them grow (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Your presence matters. Your influence matters. The way you show up for your students consistently and randomly matters. But we can’t save students ourselves. We can point them to the Savior, and then we can pray that God’s Holy Spirit would plant truth in the hearts and minds of the students we lead.
So, how can we create a safe space for students to process their questions about their faith? That’s the key to being an incredible Switch leader. We mentioned you may not have all the answers, and that’s okay. There are Youth Pastors, coaches, and resources available to you, so don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer but will look it up with your students. But, there’s something even more important you can offer your students than your answers—your love.
Students today need to be heard more than they need to be told. Switch should be the safest environment for students to come with their questions about God, about life, and about culture. And that’s where we come in as leaders. Here are some simple ways you can enrich your conversations and create a safer space for your Switch group.
- Seek to understand, first. Students are questioning everything, and that’s okay. Culture tells them one thing, their families and friends may say something else, and church tells them another. It’s natural and expected for them to have questions. This generation has never known a world without the internet and social media. That means they’re used to being bombarded with opinions, and they are exceptionally tolerant of all kinds of people and beliefs. We can learn from their love, so celebrate them for their open hearts. So, before you shut down questions students have about dicey subjects, hear them out. Ask clarifying questions. Then, bring in Scripture and ask students how God’s Truth can apply to those scenarios and what they think about that.
- Lead with love. So, should we just give grace and not truth? Of course not! But we lead with love. We give grace, first. Then, we apply truth. Here’s the key, though: We invite them into the truth. We don’t want students to view leaders as an authoritative figure they can’t trust to bring their real questions to. Instead, let’s invite them into truth-based conversations with love and understanding. Let’s ask their opinions before we rush to give an answer. That means we ask students deeper questions about how they view God and how they think the Scriptures apply to our real life today. Their answers may not be correct. Don’t freak out. Explain your answer. Invite them to study it more and talk about it the next week. Don’t be so paranoid about a wrong answer that your students never give real ones.
- Listen before speaking. Would you rather have a group of students who only answer with cliché Christian answers they don’t actually believe, or a group of students who are real with you but messy? We’re hoping for the latter. If our students don’t trust us enough to bring their real questions, they can go through life with a watered-down faith that won’t last. If instead we value their doubt as a healthy part of the Christian journey, we can show them that church is a place they can grow and be heard—not a place where they have to passively respond with a “right” answer.
- Invite their parents into the conversation. We know that the biggest spiritual influencer a student has is their parent or guardian. If we have tough conversations, we want to loop in their parents. We want to encourage their parents to continue the conversation at home. We want to celebrate the progress of our students with their families, and we want to encourage our parents that we are a resource they can trust.
You have everything you need to be an amazing Switch group leader. Give your students your love. Be willing to listen. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Give space for reflection and honest conversation. Pray for your group and for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words at the right time. You’ve got this!