How To Be A Person That Others Open Up To

i’ve been thinking lately about what it is in people that makes us perceive someone else to be “safe” while others to be “unsafe”.  i’m not talking about the ‘hey-little-girl-want-some-ice-cream?’ kind of unsafe here… but rather, the degree in someone that communicates to us that it is not ok to open ourselves up to.  or the degree to which i can look at someone and trust them and be totally comfortable sharing the real me without sugarcoating and hiding and glossing over the truth.

let’s face it… some people have it. and some people don’t.


over the years, there are definitely some people i’ve not shared certain things with.  part of that has been due to my own immaturity and need to be comfortable with my own imperfections, but they are still worth noting.  real ministry is done in the context of real relationships, and if these things mark your life, you probably aren’t (perceived as) a safe person.

  • when you only share the good things in life i wonder if you’re safe.  “do you ever struggle, or am i the only one?”  if you only share the good, people will tend to think that you’re not comfortable talking about the bad.  they know it’s there in you just like it is in them, but if you’re not cool with going there, then they know they can’t truly fit in around you.

  • when you spiritualize everything we talk about i wonder if you’re safe.  “do you always have a verse for everything?”  i’m not knocking scripture memory here or bashing the value of talking in ways that ascribe glory to God… but sometimes i think people hide behind spiritual cliches because it gets them out of uncomfortable moments.  when i’m hurting, sometimes the best thing you can say to me is nothing at all.  just being there with your mouth shut will communicate trust in ways that your words never could.

  • when you never share details about your life that could make you vulnerable i wonder if you’re safe.  “do you ever stop managing your image and let down your guard?”  if you’ve never inadvertently asked me to extend grace to you because you’ve shared something potentially vulnerable about yourself, what makes you think i will share something vulnerable about myself and expect to receive grace back?  relationships are a two-way street, and the best way to get something out of me that will make me vulnerable is to lead the way by sharing something about yourself that makes you vulnerable.

so how do you be a person that others open to?

do the opposite of the above.

share the good… but also the bad. and don’t leave out the ugly.  talk about your losses just as much as your wins.  when someone asks how you’re doing, give them an honest response, and watch for how they react.  share the things about you that are messy and raw.  and let people in on the parts of you that God is still working on.

our generation is hungry for authentic people to open up to.  will you be the one to lead the way?


The Basics Of Student Ministry

been thinking a lot lately of what student ministry at its core really is. back when i was a student in high school it didn’t seem like youth ministry was as big a “machine” as it is today. what we have today is certainly not bad… in fact i’m thankful for the hundreds of conference/training options, books, resources, blogs, podcasts, etc. out there. but as anything grows and matures, it can lose (at least for me) the essence of what it was created to do in the first place.

here was my experience 15 years ago when i was in high school, and how our church’s non-complex student ministry literally transformed my life. this is what it’s really all about:

1. we had a bunch of caring adult leaders around, and one of them in particular pouring into me. they were there every wednesday night. playing ping-pong, joking around with other teens, introducing themselves to the new kid, asking me about my world, and organizing a pickup basketball game at the park right afterwards. most of them knew me and i knew they all cared about me. but there was one who went beyond the others. he took a special interest in me, met up with me every week outside of Wednesday nights. we emailed, talked on the phone, hung out, and simply did life together. rubbing shoulders together as we went through everyday life made a profound impact on me, greater than any one event or amazing youth talk.  and the coolest thing… he wasn’t even the youth pastor!

2. i was given chances to lead. our youth leaders saw potential in me, and created space for me to lead. i know many nights the program bombed because of me, and i dropped the ball. they could have done the job better and quicker without me, but they saw a value in me holding the mic or writing the encouragement card. i still remember giving the announcements, running tech, and greeting other teens at the door, and for a self-righteous stuck up teen like myself, i needed an opportunity to see beyond myself.

3. we had an extremely safe crowd program. wednesday nights at our church was the place to be if you were a teenager in our little city surrounded by cornfields. there were always new teens there, and i still remember our youth pastor arriving each week in his beat-up, old truck with a bunch of students from the community. he even transported a kid in a wheelchair more times than i can count. the crowd was everywhere on the spiritual spectrum, and i still remember the nervous looks on the some of the older church members’ faces from time to time when they would walk in. there was laughter, learning, worship, and a strong challenge to follow Jesus harder.

no matter how complex and involved student ministry today becomes, i hope we always have these 3 components coming through loud and clear!