Beyond the Games
By Jon D. Forrest
I realize I am the author of a game book, but I want you to
get your money’s worth in a solid resource. So, in the book I
included a section that could be titled “Ramblings of a Gray-
Bearded Youth Pastor.” Actually, I address a few common problems I see in ministry that have almost done me in over the years. Here is one example:
HELP! I Can’t Get This Quiet Girl
Engaged in Conversation
I’m not a betting man, but I’ll bet you have them. Picture this: class has begun, and you are dividing up for discussion time. You say, “This worked great. We have an even number. Our groups work out perfectly. Oh...oops...sorry Jen, I didn’t see you come in. You’re so quiet you just kind of blended in with your chair there. You can just go...um, wherever.”
Jen, like human molasses, oozes toward a group. If the chairs are in a circle, her chair doesn’t quite make it into the “O,” turning it into more of a “Q.” She seems satisfied there. The other kids don’t mind her there. And you have run out of creative questions you were sure couldn’t be answered with a shrug, although she has proven you wrong many times.
When this person was younger, it was enough to sit in silence. However, as these types reach middle and high school, often they turn to fashion and music as far from mainstream as they can get. That is their goal—to stay out of the stream.
Often, these kids are highly intelligent. In some cases, this is what led to their silence and isolation. When they speak up, they are singled out immediately for their intellect. I think we underestimate the power of their need to fit in. Even people who work hard to stand out in the crowd through their clothes or tastes work hard to fit into the “stand-out group,” if that makes sense. But it’s even more powerful for the student we are talking about. She wants to disappear completely. It seems this girl is saying to herself: “I am so insignificant that I can sit here and become nonexistent to this group.” Sadly, we let it happen.
What can we do to engage these students?
1. Start the process with body language and a whisper. The best posture for a conversation with this student is shoulder-to-shoulder, not face-to-face. Even a face-to-face smile is threatening to this student. Take a seat beside him or her (a chair on either side is usually available) and say, “I love it when you’re here. You’re important to this group.” (This is true, by the way.) This is a good start. The problem is this student is smart and will over-think your kindness and conclude, “The church pays him to say that.” But it is the first step in this marathon.
2. The breakthrough will be made by that “killer” student you have. The student who is voted least likely to be a hypocrite is the one to help the king or queen of solitude. Help your student leader realize this is a process. By the way, if a “Michael Jordan of student leaders” is not coming to mind, give this next idea a try.
3. Maybe tonight it’s “Hey, Jen, glad you’re here!” And next week it’s “Hey, Jen, I’m trying to broaden my musical tastes. I trust your opinion. Who do you like?” Then the next week, “Wow, Jen! I had to read those lyrics eight times to understand them, but it was cool. I have a seat I saved for you right here.”
Think about how many times in the Bible we see Satan using loneliness to defeat good people (1 Kings 19:10). Loners often fail; we desperately need one another. These quiet students will run from God if we don’t reach them.
The good news is this type of student becomes an incredible young adult. Often, we don’t see the effect of our efforts on this person until they reach college. But more often than not they are smart, mature, and sincere in their young adult lives and come to appreciate what you have done for them.
By the way, this is what you’ve done for them—sincerely cared.
About the Writer: Jon Forrest has been working with students at Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, for 25 years. He earned his degree from Welch College, is an avid Nerf™ gun collector, and Chick-Fil-A™ sauce connoisseur. He recently authored Help! My Games Stink, available for purchase from Randall House Publications.