How Do You Start Meaningful Conversations With Teens?

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Are you a church leader who has struggled to spark conversation with a group of teens? Or maybe you are the teenager who has been part of a failed attempt at discussion. Either way, being in a room filled with awkward silences and blank stares is not fun for anyone. 

Teenagers sometimes have a reputation for being quiet, disconnected, or uninterested. But is this true? 

Not necessarily. In fact, more than ever, teens may actually be craving an opportunity to talk about balancing school, relationships, their faith, and other challenges. A quote from a recent article on the TIME magazine website states, “American youth, especially teens, are not in good emotional shape. During the school year, their stress has edged beyond that of adults.” The article brings up serious concerns and also provides a big opportunity for churches and youth leaders to get involved.  

If you are a leader, what has been your experience connecting with teens on a deeper level? Do you find it works best to connect one-on-one or in a group setting? How do you build relationships where openness and trust can grow? 

If you are a teen or young adult, what do you wish your church understood? What kind of environment or questions are helpful? What is not a helpful approach?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below! 

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  • Youth Ministry
  • Discussion Topic
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I have found it useful to approach one-on-one or a group in the narthex before and after services, and say, "Can I ask you guys/gals a question?" I wait for an affirmative response and then ask, "What's been the most difficult thing you are facing in your spiritual lives this week?" I wait for a response and then take off from there with a deeper level spiritual conversation. I always get a response, and the challenge is having enough time to continue the conversation because the service is starting or someone gets called to the car.

 

Admin

Great idea, Arthur! That personal connection is huge and what a great question. It gets at the deeper question of "How is your heart?" 

I really LOVE what Arthur Abbott said! In my experience, I have taken students out to our local coffee shop and we just sit together. I also got to their school every week. Being present in their lives has opened the (he cares) door and that has been helpful for starting the meaningful conversations. 

 

There is a man in my church by the name of Alvin Vandegriend. He and I have been meeting for weeks talking about payer and spiritual gifts, and one of the greatest things he told me was, "Keep track of who they are and what they do and be in prayer consistently for them. Whether they know it or not that builds a bridge between you both." 

So I guess to summarize it I would say continuously be present as much as you can(school, talking at church, events they participate in) and continuously be in prayer. That has worked for me.

Admin

Thanks for sharing, Austin! Having a personal relationship (and following through on commitments!) is huge. Really appreciate your thoughts. 

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