Yesterday I had a chance to run our 2nd year students through the Challenge Course here at KIVU. I love working through the team building exercises, climbing the wall, and capping the day off with the faith fall; primarily because of the deep well of information I can mine by watching them work together. Each group is different. Each group succeeds with some of the events and fails with others. The trick is being able to hang in there and wait until someone decides to let you in on their life. You see, the events we do at the Challenge Course are only the venire to seeing into the heart of a student.
Every Student Needs Encouragement
Every time I start the challenge course at KIVU, I try to find the encourager of the bunch first. I watch intently as they emerge because every group has one. There’s always one person who has the natural gift of making people feel special. “YOU CAN DO IT!” they yell. “I’M HERE FOR YOU!” they help build their team.
It’s amazing to watch students respond.
They live in such a negative world, full of sarcasm (which literally means: to tear down) they don’t even really know what to do with the encouragement they receive. They smile. They start laughing. Sometimes you can even steal a response of embarrassment because they just don’t know how to react.
Once I find out the encourager of the bunch, I make sure the whole group sees how valuable that is.
They may come to the course with negative attitudes, but after the first event, they turn into a group with a high level of positivity.
When we work with students, we have to remember: they all need to be encouraged. Whether you’re a parent or a youth leader, it’s imperative that we are the one’s who start the environment with positive comments.
It’s hard enough trying to figure out how our students are supposed to be adults. But in a world where we’re trying to guide, direct, and teach; encouragement is the ticket to honesty. It doesn’t mean you have to be a disingenuous encourager. After all, students have a smell meter where they know whether you’re honest or not in about 10 seconds. So find a way to see the positive, and give that away. You’ll be surprised how far it goes in building a relationship.
Giving is Better than Receiving
I know it’s the quote we use around Christmas time, but as a young child I just said it to others so they would give me more presents around the tree. But if you honestly use this mantra in your daily life, you’ll find Giving is truly the bedrock of developing meaningful relationships.
It doesn’t mean you have to give stuff. We all know “those” people that try to buy love through giving money or materials. What I’m talking about is the gift that really means something.
Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages is crucial to understanding how to give inside the confines of real love.
Some people like words of encouragement.
Some people like stuff.
Some people like time.
Some people like acts of service.
But Everyone loves to be given something meaningful.
When you’re approaching your teen, you’ve got to figure out how they listen to giving.
Sometimes a simple phrase like, “I really enjoyed when I saw you _____________” builds a bond you’ll never be able to break.
While some students just want to sit down and spend time together.
I start our work out here by knowing every students first name. We have 160 kids at a time at KIVU, and I make it my mission to know every kid’s first name by the first three days of their stay.
We all want people to know us, and call us by our first name.
And when you give the gift of knowing to a student, you’ll have a friend for life.
They’re all used to people calling them pal, or bro, or you. But when you reach out and give away a bit of knowing, they smile, and then they follow. It’s an amazing gift.
The world is full of people who want to say Well, I’m not good at names. And I respond Well, you better get good at it.
Finding Uniqueness is Key
Every student has a gift.
Every student has a strength.
Every student has a weakness.
When I run our kids through the low ropes challenge course, it’s easy to see.
Some are encouragers.
Some are physically strong.
Some are problem solvers.
Some are natural leaders.
And Some are followers.
At the end of our time, I spend an hour or so working with all the members of the team calling out their gifts they showed during the process.
You should see what happens.
Their eyes light up.
Their pride swells.
When they hear what they intrinsically know to be true in front of their friends, they walk away with an air of confidence they didn’t know before they came.
Finding that unique gift and sharing it in front of their friends is VALUABLE!!
As you mentor and train your students, be sure you’re on the look out for their own particularly unique gift, and be sure you comment on it. Over and over again, you’ll never know what kind of person will emerge STRONG in their gift.