Top 10 Ways Not to Help Hurting Students
By Gerrard Fess
So you are ministering to hurting students, who come in all shapes and sizes bring with them a lot of
baggage, stress, and dysfunction. Youth workers, you want to minister effectively to students that are hurting, right? Hereare some suggestions on what NOT to do when a student confides in you.
1. Don’t keep your reactions to yourself; act shocked. The more surprised you look, the more your student willquestion even if he should have confided in you in the first place. Good. You have more important things to do than talk to kids about their problems
2. Don’t use empathy, sympathy, or compassion. In fact, interject your story as soon as possible and say you know exactly how they feel.
3. Don’t listen. Your body language, tone, and eye contact shows your student whether or not you are listening. Glance around, changing the subject, twiddle your thumbs, or even start playing a game on your computer. Anything to communicate to your student that she is not valued.
4. Don’t hold back, give your student tons of advice. It is never best just to listen. I mean, your student came toyour for words of wisdom. Try to be the “Fix-It-In-A-Minute” youth worker so that your student will never return to you help with even bigger issues. You definitely don’t want to gain your student’s trust.
5. Don’t let your kids story top yours; use your “Trump Card.” When kids tell their story, interrupt
and say, “Oh yeah, that’s nothing. This is what has happened to me …” Make sure your story
one-ups theirs. Communicate your arrogance, lack of ability to listen, and that your student’s problem isn’t important.
6. Don’t keep student conversations private; tell everyone! Gossip, send e-mail, start a phone chain. Or you can take the “holy” approach and ask for “prayer” providing as many specific details as possible.
For example, “Can you pray for Jess? She is hurting and cutting herself. Oh, and her grades are dropping. Did you know that her mother and father are fighting a lot?” Break the confidentiality and trust you have built with your student.
7. Don’t think these the situation is complex. There is always only one simple solution to the problem and you know it. Be sure to go with your gut and don’t consider your actions prayerfully.
8. Don’t refer to professionals. Professional Christian counselors only need to get involved with the big stuff, like alcoholism and divorce. These issues aren’t too big to solve overnight.
9. Don’t include parents. They’re the one that caused all the problems in the first place. Don’t
communicate to parents about what their kids are going through. Parents never appreciate getting a call from the youth pastor saying,“Hey, your child is talking to me about a few things.” (Again, be as specific as possible soyour can blow your student’s trust. Don’t use discernment whatsoever.)
10. Don’t communicate or follow-up with your student. This is a must. Communication afterwards and follow-up is important; so ignore it so you can say to your student, “Thanks for talking to me but I really don’t care about you.”
Since we know you really do want the best for your student. Here are some suggested resources:
Handbook on Counseling Youth: A Comprehensive Guide for Equipping Youth Workers, Pastors, Teachers, Parents by Josh McDowell and Bob Hosteter
Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers (Youth, Family, and Culture) by Chap Clark
Christian Counseling A Comprehensive Guide by Gary Collins
Help! My Kids Are Hurting: A Survival Guide to Working with Students in Pain by Marv Penner