I think it is fair to say that high school students constantly find themselves led in different directions, whether it is by their parents, friends or media. For students, it can be dizzying trying to figure out who they really are or what they really love. As an SGL, it is important to encourage your students to follow their passions and not those of others so they can stand alone in the future.
I can still remember the times when I had so many different voices and people pulling me in a thousand different directions, but one place I was always able to be my true self was at my youth group. While I was quiet and shy at school, I was able to be more confident and outspoken in church. I knew youth group was a judgment-free zone.
That’s why encouraging your students to be the people they want to be in life and discovering the gifts God has given them is so important for an SGL. As a leader, I try to take things from my past that worked for me and morph it into something I do for the few girls I lead:
- Always encourage students when they find something they love. I still remember the leaders who asked questions about and seemed interested in whatever I had chosen to pursue. And at my church today, we have small groups assigned by interests such as sports, music, and service. This empowers students to follow after their passions.
- Make a safe environment. Being able to be yourself is the first step to finding out what you’re passionate about. So, let your group know that everything that is said in the group will not be judged and stays inside the group. This leads to students being comfortable enough to share their passions and interests.
- Just be there. Many students aren’t going to know what they are passionate about. . . Having someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of is tremendously helpful. In the past, my SGL would point out things she saw in me that I never even thought of. I am an SGL today because of guidance from my previous SGL in high school.
- Show them your passions. It has always been inspiring to me to see someone else follow after whatever God has put on their heart. As a role model for the students, they will be inspired by watching you work toward your passions. They’ll think, “Hey, they are doing what they love—I probably could, too!”
Following these guidelines won’t eliminate peer pressure or insecurities altogether. But helping and encouraging students to find their passions just might give them the confidence they need to avoid some major pitfalls over the next few years—and the rest of their lives!