After a workshop I facilitated on working with kids who have been abused, an elderly woman approached me to ask me a question. She shocked me with the simplicity and depth of the question. Here’s what she said,
“I love the kids in my community but I don’t know how to connect with the. I want to reach out but don’t know where to start. How do you do it?”
I can’t really remember what I told her, probably an overly simplified answer. I never thought about it to be honest. I just did what felt natural when reaching out to others. Plus, I have the added benefit of being pretty simple, if I didn’t know someone I would just introduce myself and talk to them. It wasn’t until I talked to my wife that she opened my eyes to the idea that for some this comes easy. For others though it is an anxiety inducing event. Imaging, you long to reach out to this generation, a generation that is slipping through the cracks right before your very eyes, but the words escape you when needed. You don’t know how to connect beyond a simple “Hello, how are you today?”
My wife and I talked about this for several hours over the next few days. We explored what is involved in connecting with these kids that seemed so different from us. Asking me how I connect with fringe kids is like asking a fish to describe water. I spend so much time out there on the fringe that it has become normal. I have developed, over the years, skills to navigate those waters. But many others haven’t and don’t know where to start. That’s what this series in aimed at doing, equipping willing adults to connect with a generation where the gap is ever increasing. Our thoughts are not exhaustive and it is my hope that other voices will chime in with their experience, wisdom, and insight.
We will cover the following over the next several weeks:
- Bridge Building – How to make that initial contact in a meaningful way?
- Cultivating a spirit of learning – Curiosity is key in connecting with others. How do we foster a spirit of curiosity?
- Law of the Lid – We will explore our preconceived expectations of these fringe kids and how they impede our interactions with them.
- The Culture of an Individual – Each student is a culture unto themselves. We will discuss how to explore that culture as it relates to effectively ministering to them.
- Doing away with my Agenda – How my agenda actually breeds a distrust that is nearly impossible to overcome.
- What is our Purpose of our Interactions – Moving from meaningless to Meaningful interactions.
- Checking our Personal Bias at the Door – Often our personal biases impact how well we connect with others, especially those different than us.
- Finding Common Ground – Discovering shared experiences, dreams, fear, and failures.
- What is being said without Words – What story are they telling with their clothes, hairstyle, and nonverbal communication.
I hope you will contribute to this discussion because at the end of the day it will close the gap between us and the adolescents that reside in the world beneath…
December 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm
I would also say meet teens in neutral places where they dont feel threatened. This can be high school games, malls, fast food places, etc. When you step on their turf, you can practice discernment and become familiar with their ways. Your list is also good.
September 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm
Thanks for the encouragement. Might consider the book idea. 😉
September 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm
Thanks for commenting. First, while I agree that all teens are at-risk today I still see that there are groups of teens that are marginalized. Furthermore, God calls us to recognize that and to pursue them, intentionally.
I’m not a fan of labeling anyone but I do see that God, in the Scriptures, uses identifying language to communicate specific people in specific situations. (i.e., the poor, down-trodden, the meek, the sick, the oppressed, widows, etc.)
I think we need to remove the blinders from our collective eyes that cause us to think that everyone has the same opportunities and choices. So, by identifying a group of kids on the “fringe” we communicate that there are kids not connected to God’s community and that God longs for that kind of restoration to occur. We are called to be a part of that activity.
Hope that makes sense.
September 8, 2011 at 10:34 am
what a great series you are embarking on. i can’t wait to see how you fill these topics out. you should probably consider this topic with these bullet points as a rough outline to a best selling book for youth workers!
September 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm
First, we need to drop the label “fringe”. Teens are teens.
Until we learn to see them through the eyes of God, we will never reach them. If wecontinue to see them through the eyes of society we will continue to try to manipulate them. Kids will see us for who we are and shut us out