When a student approaches you with a problem that you haven’t experienced yourself, it can be scary. You may wonder how the heck you’re going to address it without having the experience to back it.
This can be where real ministry happens, and you can have a real, frank discussion with a student. God isn’t just growing the student, but He’s growing you as a leader. This is definitely a time when you need to bring prayer and the Holy Spirit in to give you the right words to say.
Your first inclination may be that you won’t have the right words or the right advice to give to that student. There are very few problems that absolutely need to be solved today; take the time to seek out help from other people and the Bible. Chances are, the issue does need to be addressed, and you shouldn’t just sit there with a blank stare or say something like, “Dang, you ARE messed up!” It’s better to give a good response later than the wrong response now.
Build up a list of other leaders that you know have skill in areas that you don’t. I have other leaders that I know I can count on for assistance and they know they can count on me help with stuff that is “in my wheelhouse.”
My second fear is always that I won’t know where to direct the student biblically. I wish I had the kind of brain that could memorize verses of Scripture that were relevant to students and could just spit it out at will, but I don’t. This is where patience comes in – don’t be afraid to tell a student that you’ll get back with them next week or tomorrow to follow up on what they’re dealing with.
It’s important to remember that our job as leaders isn’t always to fix our broken students. A lot of times it’s just as important to listen and take in what a student is saying now as it is trying to fix the issue later. As someone who is very “fixer-driven,” this is usually really tough for me. It takes me stepping back and evaluating if I really need to fix this person, or if they just need to vent.
Don’t be put off by a student who comes to you with something you have no experience in. Embrace the opportunity to listen, offer advice you may have, and get back to them with more information. In the end, you want them to know you’re someone they can trust and come to for help.
Question: How do you relate to your students when you have no experience in what they’re going through?