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Bad Breath, Relationships and Youth Ministry

If you tell a students, “Dude! Go brush your teeth, your breath stinks!”, you’ve thrown away an important youth ministry opportunity. Taking a different approach to this and other embarrassing situations can become a strong foundation for insider, deep relationships.

Case in point from last weekend… (I’ve had done this many times)

Last weekend one of my students had a raging case of bad breath. Super halitosis! In my mind, I said, “I’ve got this.” I’ve developed a script I use in this exact situation that shows I care, gets me to have an insider experience with the student, while also solving the problem.

Me: You know I love you and always look out for you, right?
(This sets the stage for sharing difficult information. This is always shared best and appreciated most through a good relationship)

Student: Yeah (usually with a smirk, look of confusion or deer in the headlights stare because they think you know one of their hidden secrets)

Me: I gotta tell you that you have dragon breath. Let’s find you some gum.

Student: Thanks. I’ll do that.

(I’m not done yet. This next part is done tongue in cheek, but it is where I demonstrate the modeling I’m doing for them to do for others)

Me: Remember, I’m always looking out for you!

Student: Yeah, I know. Thanks!

Me: Your friends didn’t do that for you. They just let you stand around with bad breath. Huh? huh?

Student: (smiling) Yeah.


Next time that student encounters bad breath in a friend, he’s got a model to follow in how to deal with it in a way that strengthens a friendships and builds an insider experience. It’s the insider experiences that cause friendships to go deep. This little one can be a door to bigger ones.

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Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.