Ministry often happens when we are “off-duty.” For this reason, we should be prepared to respond to any needs that present themselves to us – whether they are in our area of ministry or not.
When we encounter young people in crisis, it is helpful to keep a few strategies in mind, since these opportunities to respond to their needs can often catch us off guard. When a particular person is struggling with depression, mental illness, addiction, or any other delicate matter, we should be prepared to receive him or her and their situation.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but is reflective of my personal experience in my recovery from addiction and in my ministry to others in a variety of demographics, age groups, and faiths. If you would like to use the “comments” section to add your own experience(s) or if you have other thoughts about ministry, I would love your input!
- It’s not up to you! It is easy to make ourselves responsible for another person’s emotions and recovery process, but it’s important to set boundaries and defer to professionals and parents when needed.
- Meet them where they’re at. Never judge a person or place expectations on his or her actions or progress. While it is sometimes necessary to call someone out and encourage
him or her to follow what is true, this should always be done by invitation, and it should be very apparent that our love and support will be remain regardless of that person’s choices and actions.
- Use active listening! It is also important to use active listening and other skills to encourage those we are serving to open up. Use validating and affirming language like, “That must have been so hard/painful when ___ happened,” or “You are so courageous for sharing this with me.”
- Personal Experience? While sharing our own experience can be helpful, it is important not to compare our particular experiences with theirs, in place of listening. Saying, “It’s like the time I…” or “everyone has something…” may seem to downplay their suffering and show that we aren’t paying attention or trying to understand them and their situation. Focus on them!
- Less is more. Often silence is golden because it allows others to share more than they were planning to and can reveal what is really underneath. This can help us to provide what is really needed and give them the space to unload and form trusting relationships in a place of woundedness.
- Remember the Divine Physician! Always be mindful that Christ is the Healer! We should always be leading those we encounter to relationship with Christ and spiritual healing of which we are all in need!
Please add your own experience!