Youth ministry is full of buzzwords. There are a lot of catchphrases that are said often but are never clearly defined. I am sure we could all think of a few but here is one I think is the most important to understand its definition. We have all heard it said before, “just go love on students.” “I am just here to love on students.” “Just love on them, that’s all they need right now.” But what does “love on them” mean? How do you actually practice this catchphrase?
Here are 5 how-to’s for “loving on” students…
1. Take an interest in their lives
This is best done by asking questions and then not saying much else. Simply be someone who listens to students and is interested in the unique details of their lives. In a busy world where everyone has their face stuck to a screen, one of the best ways you can show a student that you love them is by being maybe the only person that week who will take a genuine interest in their life. Part of loving on students is getting to know them and caring about what they care about.
2. Have fun with them
Loving on students doesn’t mean you have to be all fluffy and touchy-feely all the time. Yes, we want to take an interest in their lives but that doesn’t always have to be faux counseling sessions over cups of coffee. You DO NOT always have to be the serious adult. One of the best ways to love someone is to have a good time with them and show them joy and happiness.
3. Help them achieve greatness
When you love someone, you want the best for them; the same goes for loving on students. Loving students might look like helping them with their math homework or sitting down with them to do college applications. It may mean pushing them where they need it and making them step out of their comfort zone. Or it may mean you stepping out of your comfort zone to help them be the best they can be.
4. Having the hard conversation
Loving on students might mean correcting them and having a very difficult conversation. It doesn’t feel like love, it feels like a kick in the gut, but love speaks the truth. “Just loving on students” can sometimes get the stereotype of always being positive, shallow, and quite honestly, not really caring about what students do or what direction they are headed. While obviously the presentation needs to be in love and out of love, the truth needs to be spoken and tough conversations need to be had if you truly want to love on students.
5. Be there for them
Not just during church times but over and beyond when they need it most. It is easy to talk to a student and care about them for an hour a week during youth group but truly loving on students means being there for them regardless of the situation, or place. Students will feel loved when they know they can count on you and that takes time, repetition, and consistency. Being someone who students know has their back and is for them is one of the best ways to love on students.
Just “loving on” students is more than a buzzword, it needs to be a standard. It is easy to say but a lot harder to do. Hopefully these clear steps to an otherwise ambiguous set of instructions can help you better love on students and help students find and follow Jesus. If you have any questions feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Todd has been in youth ministry for over 10 years and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com