He sat across from me for the third time in as many months and I could feel my blood pressure rising. Every time we had done this, the conversation was painful, and finding words to fill the empty space was recurring once again. We’ve all been there, propped up and happy across the table, expecting this student (which has just depleted the budget of another $10) to spill their guts.
Let’s face it: students are hard to break through, and it can be a major challenge getting them to open up. So here are a few tips to help get us thinking and, hopefully, talking.
The person across from you is mature.
Whether or not we give them credit, students are mature. And their maturity is often the most overlooked aspect of their development. Some of the most challenging concepts have been planted in my mind through my conversations with students. Be extremely conscious of this in every interaction we have together: they want to be heard, and what they have to say is valuable.
When I sit down with adults, elders, or friends, a number one pet peeve of mine is lack of attention. One of the practices I’ve been doing personally is to leave my phone at home when going to visit friends. By doing this, I’m not tempted to pull it out in boredom (which I do, not in consciousness, but habitually). When you’re with a student, he or she deserves your unbroken attention.
Give them the respect they deserve.
There was recently a great article on this website (look here) which challenged congregations to consider involving students in important conversations. The push back wasn’t surprising, but brought up an interesting question: we are taught by Jesus to include children, and we say that children matter, but is that playing out tangibly in our congregation’s life?
When I think back to my experience as a student or young adult, the thing I’ve valued most about relationships is when people are aware of what’s happening in my life. Those simple questions directed at the value of what I’ve said, “Hey, how’s your wife’s job prospecting unfolding?” That question shows that the person across from me was paying close attention and remembers the details of our previous conversation. Because we deal with quite a few growing and confessing students, it’s important to remember where they're at, and there’s no better way of doing this than through notes. Take them, keep them, and review them when spending time with youth.
I hate cliche statements, Christian cop outs, but this isn't one of them. Sincere prayer, the type of prayer you believe in when spending time with God, will move mountains.
- What are additional practices you've done in preparation for your conversation with students?
- What are some of the challenging things students have said to you?