Going on trips is a necessary part of any youth ministry. After my first couple years of taking youth to Christian Family Night at Magic Mountain, I learned that something freeing seems to happen on these trips–youth talk waiting in lines.
At theme parks young people open up in ways that they just don’t do when sitting in an office.
This applies to being in your office as well. I’ve found that if a youth is having a hard time opening up go for a walk, clean the youth room, make some coffee, or putt golf balls with them. Basically, do something other then sit down and stare at them.
Theme parks are perfect for this. I find that youth who have a hard time talking to me will open up at a theme park.
I’ve gotten to know youth deeply while standing in lines at theme parks more than any other place.
I talked to a couple of young people about this and they told me the reason. “There’s less pressure when we’re doing something else.” By doing “something else,” we as youth ministers are freeing them to talk and providing an environment with less pressure. By the way, this doesn’t mean that we put our listening skills on the back burner.
If you are working with youth be especially attentive during events. Youth will let you know what they really want to talk about and what you should come back to later. We have to pay even more attention and pick up on those conversation indicators that youth throw out for us to pick up. If we miss too many of these, they just stop trying. I’ll call up young people days after an event and say something like “you mentioned your dad isn’t doing well, want to talk about it”? Often they will.
There are exceptions to this, but I’ve found that the majority of youth I’ve worked with open up more when they have something else to do. With those exceptions, you’ll need to find a quiet place to meet. Listen closely and they’ll give you clues that they would rather talk in private.
Fun events are great places to just be with youth and get to know them better. But if we as youth ministers are not paying attention we could miss opportunities for deep ministry.
If you are looking for a good book on relationships in youth ministry click on this link and purchase Relationships Unfiltered: Help for Youth Workers, Volunteers, and Parents on Creating Authentic Relationships