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What do you say to a student who has messed up?

March 15, 2016

Drugs, alcohol, and sex, are all things we try our hardest to keep our students from. But for most of us we have, or have had, students who have fallen into these exact things.

I was recently questioned by one of my volunteer leaders, as to how to deal with those students who have gotten involved with something they shouldn’t. What do you say to them? How do you talk with them about it without sounding like you are preaching to them? How do you speak into their life without sounding like a parent? What do students need to hear?

It is a very tough situation and it can be very difficult to know what to say without making students shut down and retreat. So, what do students need to hear when they are in those situations? Whether students confess to you what they have done or they are caught doing something which is the reason they are talking to you here are 3 things every student needs to hear in that situation.

But, before we get into what they need to hear, we all need to make sure our goal is NOT to change the actions of the student, but rather to see their hearts changed. Most of the time students know they have messed up, they know what they did was wrong and that’s not what they need to hear. What they need to hear is this:

1. They are loved

God loves them, and they have a place where they are loved. Students know that what they did was wrong and they most likely feel extremely unlovable, especially by God. Let them know that they are loved by God, and let them know they are loved by you, your staff, and your church in spite of their actions.

2. God is not mad at them

It is so easy for us as humans to think God is just this angry dude waiting for us to mess up so He can yell at us. Too often students think God is mad at them for what they did and there is no way they could run to Him in the midst of their sin. They need to hear that not only does He love them but He is NOT mad at them and out to get them for what they have done.
3. There is abundant grace waiting for them

The entire premise of Christianity is grace. It is so easy for students to think now that they have messed up, got caught smoking weed, got drunk at a party, had sex, smoke cigarettes on the way home from school everyday, or whatever it is that they are now just ruined. There is no hope for them. They NEED to know not only are they loved, not only is God not mad at them, but He is willing to welcome them back with open arms. He wants to give them what they do not deserve and use them in mighty ways. They messed up, yes. But so has everyone else in the world. Now it is time to take Christ up on his offer of amazing grace and begin again.
It is hard to know what to say in those situations, but that is what students need to hear! Hopefully this helps and hopefully after this is said it serves as a spring board into the next steps that need to be taken be it healing, counseling, mentoring, rehab, or whatever it is.

Talking with students in those situations is not easy, but hopefully this gives you a place to start.

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