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Nudge Your Students to Try New Things

I love Disneyland! The enchanting environment and variety of each ride lures me back again and again. I love working the spinning wheel on the Tea Cups so hard that I can’t even talk (okay, I’m not that buff…my husband helps me). I love the childhood memories I experience every time I ride the Rockets, and I love the updated Pirates of the Caribbean ride – complete with four incognito, life-sized animated “Jack Sparrows.” I love all of it. But what I love even more is how I experience it through our two young sons. Our four-year-old, Jack, is a cautious but energetic child. Often, we have to nudge him to try new things, and on this particular day, Pirates was among them.

We just knew he would love it once he got on, but getting him to do so took some serious convincing. “You’ll see Jack Sparrow,” we said in persuasive tones. “You’ll hear the Yo Ho pirate’s song…you’ll love that!” He firmly shook his head no. Finally, Dad knelt down to meet his eyes, knowing he needed a gentle nudge. “Son, we love you and we know you. Will you trust us this time? It’s a great ride!” At this, something clicked, and Jack reluctantly said he’d go. He loved it! In fact, we ended up riding Pirates three times and left with a sword, a hat and an eye patch (and a whole lot less money!).

Sometimes the students in our youth ministries or—dare I say—even we ourselves need a nudge to do something we have never done before.

Over five months ago, I suggested to the powers that be that we should take all of our students, 7-12th grade, through “Life Hurts, God Heals” (LHGH), an 8-step group for students with pain or addiction. Three meetings and a lot of prayer later, they finally agreed. Even at my own church, where I’ve run LHGH for years as an optional ministry, nudges were needed. Why? Because it’s easier not to deal with hurt. Period. And with a gazillion other curriculums out there, why choose this one? My answer…because we can’t afford not to.

Finally, just this past weekend, we kicked off the LHGH series! It was exciting. As we taught, we shared some of our own emotionally scarred stories, then nudged students to fill out an anonymous card which said, “My scars are __________. I deal with it by ___________” Here’s what a handful read:

My scars are…  

I deal with it by… 

bad computer habits

hiding it

abuse from my mom since I was 7  

I don’t

the night my dad left for another woman

a lot of tears

how I believe that skinny = pretty

hiding it in humor

getting cut from the b-ball team

praying to find another sport

addiction to pornography


not feeling brave or man enough

acting like I am


Wow. I couldn’t help but wonder how much worse could it get for these students if we were not intentionally addressing the issue of pain? And not only addressing it openly and honestly, but giving them tools to deal with how they feel through support and the 8-steps given through this curriculum?

I am once again reminded that, our students—and often we ourselves—need to be nudged in a direction we would rather not go. Then go in that direction. By coming along side their hurts and pains we show them just as we did our four-year-old, “we love you and we know you….trust us this time. ”  


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Megan Hutchinson has worked with students for more than a decade. She's currently a high school minister at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and a writer. Her writings are included in Help! I'm A Woman In Youth Ministry and Life Hurts...God Heals. Article used with permission. Simply Youth Ministry was founded by Doug Fields over 15 years ago to help simplify your youth ministry and save you time. If you’ve found this article helpful, stop by and check out the thousands of freebie downloads we have available at www.simplyyouthministry.com/freebies.