This week’s blog post is by Brad Wright, Compass Rose’s campus chaplain. To learn more about Brad, click here.
Dealing with a troubled teen takes patience, patience and more patience! All kids, regardless of the “troubled” label or not, want someone to connect with them. But forging this connection requires the youth worker to develop a few basic skills.
#1 GO TO THEIR TURF
Most kids who are struggling with life or have been labeled “troubled” probably won’t come find you or your church youth ministry. You need to go to them. When someone approaches you and says, “Can you help me with my teenager?” plan to go to the teen and meet at a neutral site. This could be a fast food restaurant, library, etc. Don’t expect the teen to come to you. I call this “presence ministry” — just being available.
#2 FIND A COMMON INTEREST
If you don’t have a relationship with the teen, you will need to build one before you can offer any advice or help. Learn what they like to do, their favorite TV shows and music, etc. Use that discussion as a springboard to begin to build trust with the teen. (Note: You may want to explain this process to the parents of the teen. Often, they are frustrated and looking for a quick fix for their troubled teen, and this process takes time.)
#3 LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN
Most teens in crisis have not had many adults listen to them. You are not trying to become their best friend, but you can provide a safe sounding board for them to begin to share their struggles, concerns and frustrations of life.
#4 OFFER ADVICE – WHEN ASKED
Don’t be too quick to offer solutions. Let me say that again. We may think we know the best answer, and maybe we do, but wait to be asked before you provide advice or an opinion.
#5 BE HONEST, AND KEEP IT REAL
Teens are surrounded by enough people who just tell them what they want to hear. Don’t be afraid to be honest. Teens also don’t expect you to agree with everything they say, so share honest feedback when the time is right.
#6 CHURCH YOUTH GROUP MAY NOT BE AN OPTION
Be open to the idea that inviting teens to attend youth activities at the church may not be an option. The family may have transportation or financial limitations that make it hard to get to events and activities, they may be limited by work schedules, or there might be other barriers to participation. Look at Jesus. He went to people, found a common interest (often through the stories he told), listened to their needs or concerns, offered advice and was honest with them and ultimately invited them into a relationship with him, not the church. For them, church may be you showing up on a regular basis, hanging out in their world with their friends.
To learn more ways to connect with troubled teens in your congregations and your community, contact Compass Rose Academy today.