There are a lot of times when I wish my small group students would open up more about the pains and struggles they deal with. Most students aren’t naturally inclined to open up to people about things like that, so we need to find ways to make them more comfortable. Some of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in youth ministry is when I’ve shared some of my past struggles and pains with my students. There’s something real about being vulnerable with your students that makes them feel at ease and more comfortable about opening up themselves.
I’ll admit that I’ve been very blessed to not have a lot of pain in my life. I have had many great life experiences and thank God for every day that He has given me. While I haven’t had a lot of pain, there are experiences that I went through in junior high and high school that are very relatable to students today. These are things that when students hear them, they are able to breathe a little easier knowing that not only has someone else gone through the same thing, but that they can relate to their leader in this problem.
It can be difficult unveiling past pains and struggles to your students, but it is a huge tool in helping your students open up about their own. I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t come across this method on my own. Heather Flies, a youth pastor in Minnesota, talked about it during a youth event I attended with a few of my students earlier this year. Until then it never crossed my mind to open myself up and be vulnerable, showing my true colors and not hiding things from my past in ministry. I’m happy to say it was very good advice, and any leader looking to take their small group to the next level should try opening up to their students about their past pains and struggles.