As youth workers, we seek to understand the young people we serve. We read, we dialogue with other youth workers, we go to conferences and so forth. There is a lot to learn. We serve a population that is changing. What worked with youth group yesterday often does not work in youth group today. Because we want to reach young people so that they can accept the saving work of Jesus Christ for themselves and love God and neighbor, we learn about youth culture and how what is happening in the world around us affects students. Nevertheless, there is a danger.
The danger that exists is seeing the students to whom we are sent to minister as a category. Kathleen T. Talvaacchia's words are timely. Though written about multicultural education they have relevance for youth ministry whether or not it is multicultural: “No authentic teaching can exist without the ability to relate to learners as people” (2003 81).” This means that for there to be a genuine transfer of knowledge and skills those who are in the role of teacher must have the capacity to engage those in the role of learners as human beings.
We learn all we can, yes. It informs what we do, yes. However, at the end of the day, God sends us real people and not categories and statistics. Our students come with their joys and sorrows, challenges and victories rooted in specific situations. Let us learn about and from them and connect with them as human beings and treasure them as God’s gifts.
How do you go about connecting with the students in your youth group and/or at your church?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor