Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” You have undoubtedly heard this saying many times. While it’s true, it often leaves us with the question, “So how do I practically show them that I care?” You can tell your students time after time that you care about them, but they will never realize it until they see it. That’s where relationships come into play. If you want your small group students to have a growing relationship with Christ, your example should lead the way. So how can you build a relationship with your students that points them to Jesus? Here are three practical steps.
1. Active Listening – There is a big difference between hearing your students and listening to them. Ask your students quality, open-ended questions, and then let them answer. Don’t interrupt them! Instead, listen to every word they have to say. Watch their body language and facial expressions. Listen to their emotions, and don’t think about your response until they are done talking. Show them that you are listening by nodding, making noises that show interest, and keeping eye contact. Not only will you learn more about your students this way, but they will enjoy having someone that they can talk to.
2. Interactive Accountability – As your students share details about themselves, you are going to learn areas in each student that need to change and grow toward Christlikeness. This is where you get to show your students how you care about them. You want them to grow to love Christ, look like Christ, and obey His teachings. When you find these areas of growth, create attainable and measurable goals for them to strive toward. Interact with them on a regular basis as they pursue these goals. When they fall short, encourage them along. Once they reach a goal, celebrate, and then challenge them to go a step further! Remember, consistency in this is key to showing that you care about their spiritual maturity.
3. Proactive Engagement – Your students will have no idea how much you care about them if they only see you and hear from you during church and youth group. Send encouraging text messages and notes in the mail. Go to their extracurricular activities. Cheer them on if they play a sport. See their school play or band concert. Invite your small group students to your house for meals or game nights. Schedule times for you and your small group students to fulfill service opportunities together. Do not wait for your students to ask you about getting together. Be proactive and create opportunities for you to spend time with your students which will help build relationships.
Remember that your purpose in all of this is not just to check off a box with your students. The purpose is to build a relationship that gives you the opportunity to point them toward Christ.