Mentoring High-Risk Youth: YS Idea Lab with Amy Williams

Jacob Eckeberger
March 7th, 2016

With years of experience serving kids in gang neighborhoods and fighting for the rights of incarcerated youth, Amy Williams knows every aspect of mentoring high-risk youth. In this YS Idea Lab from the National Youth Workers Convention, Amy breaks down a few ways she serves these types of kids, and she leaves us with some incredible encouragement for the hard work of ministry.

If you don’t have time to watch the full interview, here are 4 key ideas I took from my time with Amy Williams.

1) There’s a difference between at-risk and high-risk youth.

Every kid is at risk of not growing into a healthy adulthood. But there’s a smaller subgroup of at-risk kids that have more difficult life situations, and those are the high-risk youth. If that subgroup doesn’t have outside influences to support them, they’re significantly less likely to grow into a healthy adulthood.

2) We should provide teens with support through both discipleship and mentorship.

Amy explained that taking on those supportive roles will look different for every kid. Discipleship is what happens when we take on a spiritually supportive role in a kid’s life. But for those kids who don’t want to have anything to do with church, we can still provide a supportive role by mentoring them. It’s the idea that caring for the physical and emotional needs of a person could develop into opportunities to care for their spiritual needs as well. Amy says it well: “Discipleship is telling you what it means to look like Jesus. Mentoring is saying that we want to walk life with you on your journey to discover who you are . . . ”

3) Practice the ministry of no.

Sometimes we feel as if kids only need to hear us say yes. We want to be supportive and active in their lives, but we can’t always say yes to the detriment of our own health and well-being. If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will. Amy points out that our kids are actually okay with the no. By choosing to say no to some things, we can model self-care to our students.

4) Kids are not projects to be fixed.

When we view kids as projects that need to be fixed, we create a relationship with them that’s similar to how a doctor approaches a patient. In this type of relationship, the patients—a.k.a. our students—always have to be sick, and we—the doctors—always have to be well. But when we free ourselves from that doctor/patient mindset, it creates room for the Holy Spirit to be just as alive in the hearts and minds of our students as the Holy Spirit is alive in us. Our kids don’t have to be sick to need us. We can celebrate the amazing work being done in their lives and truly be the support that they need in order to change the world around them.

The YS Idea Labs are filmed on location at the National Youth Workers Convention. Check out more YS Idea Labs HERE.and register early for NYWC to save BIG: NYWC.COM.

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JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.