5 Things to Avoid When a Student Comes to You With a Crisis

Tim Balow
April 19th, 2018

During my first year in full-time youth ministry, a student approached me with a major crisis. When I was in Bible college, I never imagined that I would be counseling a student through this kind of crisis…this soon! When I was sitting in counseling class, and in my homework, and during my discussions with fellow-students, something like this was sort of like a unicorn – you never imagined you would encounter one. But here I was, without much preparation, face to face with a student who had her concept of God totally destroyed, and she wanted me to help her process it all.

As I have gone back to reflect and process that interaction, there are a few things I want to mention. The first is, thankfully, is that God gave me the wisdom to counsel her through the situation appropriately. Her situation was not “fixed,” but I am confident that her relationship with God is growing and becoming healthier. I praise God for that. But He also helped me to avoid some things that could have compromised my ministry to her.

Reflecting on that moment (and others), I’ve dug out five things to avoid when a student comes to us with a crisis:

Don’t forget to pray throughout the entire process. The power of God is more effective then your brightest ideas – 1000 times more.

Don’t display shock or awe. Don’t act as though their situation is something to be feared or studied. They are not a unicorn. They are a normal human being who is experiencing a lot of pain. They need assurance and confidence. It is fine if you don’t have all the answers; they didn’t approach you because you do. They came to you to feel the love of God and to process their pain.

Don’t tell everybody. The more pain is broadcasted, the more it is felt. Obviously, you need to inform the appropriate people, but gossip – even inadvertent prayer-request-gossip – can be damaging to their trust and, potentially, close the door to them letting God in to heal.

Don’t promise not to tell anybody. I have heard too many times, “I have something I really need to tell you…can you promise not to tell anybody?” NO! Never promise this. You might get the pleasure of keeping someone’s secret every once in a while. But you can’t promise this up front. There are many cases that require you tell someone – as in the case of abuse. God still works through the authorities (Rom. 13:1). You aren’t the only one who can help them. And to be honest, we need more than one person to help us process a crisis.

Don’t have these conversations alone and out of sight from others. I always try to talk in a public place, or at the least keep my door open and notify nearby staff members. By doing this you protect yourself from false allegations, at the very least. Your ministry is bigger than one person. Don’t risk it because you want to prove that you are trust-worthy. What I have found that is that if someone really wants your help, they will be happy that you are respecting their decency and protecting your ministry.

Brant Cole has been in youth ministry since 2010. Gifted in relational connections and transformational preaching, Brant finds it to be one of the highest privileges to do ministry with and to students. To him, student ministry is extremely important because students are not just the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today. When he’s not with his family or with his students, Brant can frequently be found at a local coffee shop or playing FIFA. Brandt has his M.A. in Pastoral Studies and Congregational Leadership from Moody Theological Seminary. He studied at Moody Bible Institute for his undergraduate studies.

Tim Balow

Youth Specialties exists to elevate the role of youth ministry and the youth worker to grow the faith of the next generation.

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