Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders The One Thing Students Will Never Forget About You

The One Thing Students Will Never Forget About You

This week, the world lost a profound writer and poet in Maya Angelou, and reflecting about some of the things she’s said that have transformed our culture, which have filled Twitter and Facebook since her passing, one has struck me hard as it pertains to us as youth workers:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As someone that has worked with high schools students for nearly 14 years now, I cannot think of a more truthful quote for what we do. When I think about the interactions and relationships our leaders and I have have with the thousands of young people whose lives have crossed paths with ours, I pray that this idea would be true and here is why.

Students forget what we say: Prepping a message each week is likely the single most time-consuming task of your work week, and when the next week roles around, chances are students might remember a fraction of a percent of the words that you so diligently nuanced. They were there, they listened and some of it was subconsciously filed away. Likely, one day they will find themselves in a conversation where something we taught, that was marinating in the back corner of the grey matter in their head, comes to mind and they will remember it was you that shared it with them. But if we are honest, lots of the words go in and many don’t stick.

Being there isn’t always enough: I go to enough of our student’s concerts and events to know that there are lots of people there, people who have given up their time and traded other opportunities to be there, but the truth is, many aren’t really “there” at all. They are head down, immersed and totally taken by a tiny screen in their hand, scrolling through emails, cat pictures, 10-best lists and Buzzfeed posts. They seem to want to be anywhere but at that game or show. Students often look up and don’t see a parent or friend’s encouraging face but the top of their head as they stare intently at their lap. Simply being there isn’t enough, serving them out of any sense of duty or obligation isn’t from the heart, and young people know that and can sense the lack of authenticity a mile away.

How you make them feel matters: We can teach all day on the love of Christ, the unconditional nature of the Father’s love for us, but it’s the ways in which we live that out that show it, that allow students to feel loved. The way that we serve and lead students communicates something to them, students feel a lot, their emotions are strong, dynamic and the emotional antennae are constantly searching. In the course of a school year, we serve students in a lot of ways:

We listen to them.

We pray for them.

We challenge them.

We sit with them.

We cry with them.

We sacrifice for them.

We cheer for them.

We do life with them.

One of the legacies of our ministry to students should result in them feeling something, not just warm fuzzies, but feeling in their heart that no matter what they do, where they go in their life:

They are Accepted.

They are Safe.

They are Loved.

They are Encouraged.

They are Valued.

They are Heard.

They are Acceptable in the eyes of Jesus and are invited into the family of God.

Twenty years from now, students will forget the many lessons we taught, the content of the conversations that we had at Starbucks, or the games we showed up at; they will remember, however, the way all of these things made them feel. All of these feelings are a reflection of the unending love of Christ for us, that we in turn reflect to our students.