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How to Affirm Students in Your Youth Group

There is NO DOUBT that God works through us to make a real difference in the world. What an incredible thought!

But since God doesn’t need us to build his kingdom, why do you think he does work through us? We believe that God works through us because he is also working in us to become more like Jesus.

That’s what it’s all about–loving God and loving others so they can love God.

As youth workers, one of our greatest privileges is to work alongside the Holy Spirit and affirm God’s work in a teenager’s life. Here are some ways that we have tried to help teenagers become more like Jesus:

Commit to the long haul. Helping a teenager discover their unique identity in Christ won’t happen overnight or in a single conversation. Most life-change requires a significant process…it takes time to build a healthy relationship. Because of that truth, it’s too soon for you to give up.

Become a student of their life. This challenge requires you to pay attention and try to discern where God is moving. WATCH! ASK! LISTEN! Nurture a vision for a teenager’s growth by paying attention to who they are. Think about them often and ask God what he might be up to in their lives and what you might be able to do to help. Don’t allow your assumptions to get in the way–humbly submit your assumptions in prayer and beg God for clarity for what role you might play.

Paint pictures of their potential. God’s designs for our lives are always so much more than we can understand or expect. Help your students see new horizons. When a teenager sets a personal goal, encourage it, challenge it, and nurture it. It is a magnificent gift that God allows us to ask, WHAT IF?

Celebrate great decisions. When a teenager expresses Christlike character, cheer them on. Any spiritual success is worth noticing and affirming. Point out the fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5) that you see in their life and help them see how they are in line with God’s design.

Downplay the failures. Learn to look past the problems and make grace your first response. Parties are so much better than punishments. When a student takes a hard fall, don’t take it personally; your disappointment doubles the shame and doesn’t do any good. We’re not suggesting you look beyond it; we’re just challenging you to not highlight, remind, and dwell on it.

Encourage them to serve. There are some things that God can only teach us when we are serving others. We are never more like Jesus than when we serve. Once you see teenagers serving, ask them questions to help them explore their serving-experience and help them discover where God might be leading.

Your words of affirmation will go a long way to help teenagers discern what God is doing to shape them more like Jesus. What are your students hearing from your ministry?