Significance in Relationships – Dwight Peterson

mjgoodrow Podcast

Whether you are a youth pastor or a small group leader, it is important to understand the significance of relationships when you are working with young people. On this episode, Brian has a conversation with Dwight Peterson. Dwight is a veteran youth leader. He was a youth pastor in a local church for almost twenty years and now is a professor at Clarks Summit University in the areas of discipleship and youth ministry. He and his wife are also middle school small group leaders in their local church.


If you could share one important thing with youth leaders, what would it be?

Build relationships with your students from which you can speak into their lives. Allow conversations throughout the week, not just during youth group. Conversations are key to discipleship and relationships.

Give your students skills that will allow them to grow spiritually apart from your direct influence in their lives. Teach them how to have a relationship with Scripture and how to pray. Instead of just teaching them what is in the Bible, teach them how to study the Bible, so they can continue studying for a lifetime.

Are students, including middle school students, capable of being serious, studying the Word and growing?

The brief teachable moments in ministry are a lot like parenting. There is no insignificant time spent with your students because you are building a relationship that allows you to be there for them spiritually. If your ministry is a place they love to be and they know somebody cares for them, it may still be years before they are ready, but you may be able to direct them spiritually.

  • Build the relationship so that when you have the opportunity to talk about spiritual things, your students know it is because you love them, not just because you are a youth leader. It takes time. The barriers and suspicion of our culture demand that we do ministry biblically. We must connect with people and work hard to help them see that we are here to genuinely help and love them.
  • Any moment that illustrates a growing relationship is a win. Do not devalue the moments that build relationships, because relationship is what connects us, builds ministry and allows us to speak into each other’s lives. Confrontation should not be the goal, but a natural deepening of the relationship. Your students will also confront and help you grow as well.
  • Messages are to set up conversations, because it is in the conversations that the real dynamic happens. The larger percentage of Jesus’ words in the Bible were from his conversations, which were often based on his message. People made decisions more often due to the conversations He had with them rather than His messages. Relationships are key to the right and opportunity for spiritual conversation.

The point of Luke 12:7, where God says He knows the number of the hairs on your head, is that God cares about the insignificant parts of your life, so He cares even more about what is significant. We need to do the same thing with our students. Talk about their baseball game and celebrate when they want to tell you about it. That means they understand you care about them, which students must believe before they will be open to you caring about them spiritually. Build the time and budget into your ministry to have relationship building moments, like going out for ice cream and scheduling free hang-out time.

Closing Thoughts:

As a youth minister, I must be pursuing my own relationship with Jesus. The more I seek Jesus, the more sensitive I will be to the Holy Spirit’s leading towards opportunities. All wisdom and sensitivity will flow out of your personal walk with Christ. Care more about the spiritual walk of those you are investing in (your leaders) than their “job” performance.  Make a passion to be like Jesus more important than ministry effectiveness and these things will come naturally to you.


Further Resources:

Visit for more information on Clarks Summit University.