Steven: For something that is such a relevant topic in youth ministry, I’m surprised we haven’t written on this topic before. For junior high and high school students, peer pressure is probably one of the most difficult things they’ll deal with during their teenage years. In an age when finding their identities and looking “cool” are so important to them, peer pressure plays a major role in their decision making.
As leaders, how do we encourage our students to not give in to the constant pressure they face from their peers?
- Teach that as Christians, our identities are found in Christ, not people. We don’t have to live with the constant pressure to please people–there’s only one person we really need to please.
- Encourage those who don’t struggle as much with peer pressure to be a light. One of my students this year had an amazing gift of reaching out to his friends that were on a bad path. On several occasions, he stepped way out of his comfort zone to tell a few of his friends that what they were doing was wrong. It was such a great teachable moment and a time to encourage my other students to do the same.
- Teach truth. The more our students are brought up to know the Bible and are shown how to live more like Jesus, the less they will WANT to give in to peer pressure.
Matt: We all can be victims of peer pressure, but I think junior high and high school years are the times we are most driven to act based on peer pressure and what others will think of us. Teens stumble and fail to live a biblical life when they forget that pleasing God should be number one in their lives and worry more about pleasing their friends or being popular.
One way we can help students avoid the pitfalls of peer pressure is be the best example in our lives for them. Don’t just tell them how they should act, show them. Let every aspect of your life be an example to them. In other words, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Another way is to make sure your small group has accountability partners.
Last but certainly not the least is to have lessons for your group that explain to them that often times peer pressure leads to sin and leads them to move away from God instead of closer to God. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “Well everyone is doing it.” That still does not make it right or biblical. A moment of giving into peer pressure and sinning is not worth the guilt and other effects that can come from a bad action and have lasting negative results. Popularity is fleeting and to give in to peer pressure because you’re afraid of what your friends will think can lead to lasting pain later in life. Been there done that. Use your past mistakes as a lesson for students.