What will you pass on this Christmas?
Who will you talk to this Christmas? Are you excited to see a child or grandchild you haven’t talked to for a while? For some of you, this might be a daunting experience. You may have a desire to share your faith to encourage a young person you care about, but maybe you don’t feel equipped to do so.
From my experience in youth work, one of the biggest barriers to talking with a younger person is the strong sense of the generational divide. Our world is changing so rapidly, it’s easy to think that we have less and less in common with younger generations. Part of this is true. I’ve learned that most of the students I talk to now won’t get 90% of the movie references I make. Yet, teenagers today still have similar struggles to what you wrestled with as a teenager.
The Fuller Youth Institute recently released a great book called “3 Big Questions that Shape Your Future.” In it, the authors explore three fundamental questions that all youth wrestle with: 1. Who am I? 2. Where do I fit? 3. What difference can I make?
If you’ve ever struggled to answer any of these questions, you can relate to teenagers today. Don’t let the generational divide scare you. You don’t know exactly how youth today are struggling because you will never be that age again, and each individual experience is so different. Yet, you can work to put yourself into the mindset of someone who is working out some of the most fundamental questions about where they fit into the world.
If you have the great opportunity to interact with a young person over this Christmas season, consider these tips:
Talk while doing
Working or playing while talking can open conversation that might not happen if you’re sitting across from each other. This is especially helpful when talking with boys.
Sitting side by side while playing a game or working on a project together allows for long pauses without them becoming awkward.
Questions also feel less interrogative if you’re not making eye contact. Physical activities such as going on a walk are even better as they will help you relax.
Try not to sermonize
When we hear someone present a struggle that we’ve already been through, it’s so natural to bring up all the solutions we know to solve the problem. Wouldn’t it be irresponsible and uncaring to let someone be in pain when we know how to solve all their problems? I think you see where this is going.
Many youth have a natural tendency to shut down when being preached at. Now, if a youth asks you a question about your experience with the same issue, do share! But, unless you’re invited to share your experience, rely more on asking questions. Try to get a clear picture before you offer any advice.
Consider this one of many
Enjoy the time you have in talking with a young person. Most likely, you’ll have another opportunity to connect. Taking the pressure off yourself will allow you to be more relaxed and smile, which will allow for even better conversations now and in the future. Also, if something is shared in this conversation, it will show how much you care if you ask about it in the future. “How did that big project go you were preparing for?” “Which elective did you end up selecting?”
When you remember, you show how much you care. If, like me, you have a hard time keeping track of these things, consider keeping a conversation journal. You can also use this journal to record prayer requests.
These are just a few things to think about when having a conversation with a young person. If you have something that works that serves to encourage and open conversation, use that!
The more open the conversation can be, the easier it will be to share how much Jesus means to you and how you have a new life in Him. The more you hear a young person’s stories, the more you’ll be asked to share your stories about your faith and all God has done for you.
To learn more about Worship Anew’s work to equip aging adults to live an abundant life in Christ, go to WorshipAnew.org. There you can be encouraged by God’s Word through video and print resources and learn more about how you can support this vital ministry.