The beauty about relational youth ministry is that it gives students a place to share.  As SGLs we need to remember that students are hurting and need a warm, welcoming environment to discuss their doubts, struggles, pain and hurts.

So what do we do when a student shares a hurt?  The biggest danger is not knowing what to do when a student shares some of their hurts.  As SGLs we have to be prepared to help the hurting student.

Here are some things to think about when a student shares a hurt:

–  Assessment:  First, assess the seriousness of the hurt.  Be on the lookout for anger and for the 3 HURTS:  (1)  ”I am hurting myself” I.E.  Cutting, suicide attempts.  (2)  ”I have been hurt.”  I.E. any type of abuse (emotional, sexual or physical).  (3)  ”I am hurting someone else.” I.E.  violent rages and anger manifestations.  Second, tell the leader of your student ministry.  It is important to give the person in charge a heads up on the situation.  The person in charge will be able to make a call on what to do.  If any of these 3 hurts show up, it may be wise to refer to a licensed Christian counselor and your leader may be a mandatory reporter.

–  Encourage the student to tell their parents:  If a student is hurting themselves or hurting others, encourage them to tell their parents. When mom and dad get involved, they can help support and love their student while getting them the help they need.  Normally, this is where the student gets really mad at you.   They will call you bad names, a liar or say they will never tell you anything ever again.  Remember…. the goal is to get hurting students healthy.  Give the student the opportunity to tell their parents first (with a clear deadline).  If they don’t meet the deadline, then you and the student pastor may need to tell their parents.  This way the student has an opportunity for the student to tell the parents so the parents wouldn’t have to hear the “news” from leaders within the student ministry.

If a student is being hurt (i.e sexual abuse or physical abuse) by their parents, then don’t encourage them to tell their parents.  Statistically speaking when a student is being hurt, most likely the parent is doing the hurting.  Make sure to get with the person in charge of your ministry and brainstorm the direction you want to go.

–  Prayer:  The Holy Spirit is the counselor, not you.  SGLs are not qualified to be professional counselors.  God is qualified to transform and clean hearts so give Him room to do what He does best.  Plus students are not looking to their SGL to have all the answers, rather they are looking for an adult with a caring ear to help them navigate their faith and adolescent journey.  When meeting with students always point them back to Jesus.  Make sure to be praying for your few during the week and after every small group meeting.

Undoubtedly today teens are hurting and they need more adults to care for them.  It can be very overwhelming navigating the hurts of your few, but it is necessary to get them the help they need.  So just know that God has perfectly placed you in the lives of your few to show them love, support, grace and patience through the hard and good times of their adolescent journey.

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Jeremy holds a B.A. in Communication from University of Minnesota as well as a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has a passion for connecting with and learning from student pastors, deliberatively researching, reading, and blogging about student ministry and family ministry, dabbling with online technology and experimenting in ministry lifestyle design and productivity in the church. Jeremy and his wife, Mikaela, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he serves as an Orange Specialist with the XP3 Student team.

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