I have worked with college students for over 11 years. I have studied them and spent countless hours with them and I believe the Lord has given me understanding of where they come from. Here are the top 10 things I believe the younger generation values. When we can't relate to them in these ways we cut ourselves off from being able to influence them.
Top 10 needs of young people from the people who influence them.
1. Communicate your heart. Being “real” and “transparent” are one of the greatest values of young people. This requires sharing your thoughts and feelings and allowing room for others to share theirs. It means being open with your fears, hopes and motives which earns the respect and trust of others in a social media saturated culture.
2. Cast vision often. When you paint a picture of the end result it aligns affections to the mission. At a recent conference of 45,000 students ended up giving over 3.3 million dollars to help end slavery all over the world. College students were moved to give to the point of standing in line for two hours to do so because they saw what could be if the ministries fighting this injustice had the money they needed. When someone wants to do something, the quality of work that results is recognizably different than someone who is doing it because they have to.
3. Have an honest view of your abilities and your limitations. Tim Tebow is an example of someone who has on honest view of himself and his need for others. After every game he points to Jesus Christ, the One who enables him to play football and acknowledges other players who did well. Overconfidence repels, and humility attracts.
4. Show Respect. Affection for and a desire to follow grows when you treat people as though they have God-given value and significance. Young people loose respect for people who talk down to others. But when you show respect and offer dignity to others you might not agree with or who doesn't deserve it, it wins the heart and confidence of a young person.
5. Go Big. Don’t be afraid to take risks. When you take risks it shows you care about something enough to put your faith in it. Students want to know that you believe in what you are asking them to do. Going big is an opportunity to model how to trust the Lord and leave room for Him to show up and show off. And even if things don’t turn out as you’d hope, even that is worthy of praise in a young person’s mind if you fail well, something just as important to model as how to succeed.
6. Give Ownership. Let them contribute and have freedom to fail. Give them opportunities to use their unique gifts and abilities toward the mission. Students are at a point where they are discovering their uniqueness and need opportunity to flesh it out. When given the opportunity they are able to learn and grow. But when there is pressure to fit into a box or cookie cutter, I have found they generally resist.
7. Persevere. Push through adversity, press into conflict and communicate. With over half of this young generation coming from broken homes, their examples of people who stick things out when it gets tough are few. Therefore, they not only have a real need but also a felt need of seeing people model pushing through in the face of adversity. Most students want to run from conflict and haven’t learned how to communicate. So when you take them by the hand and walk through the issue, their thoughts, feelings, wants and actions, they overcome and their respect for you goes through the roof. Use the conflict that could stale mate your relationship as an opportunity.
8. Be generous. Generosity ignites generosity. When you are generous with your resources, praise, patience and support for a young person’s benefit they take notice. Even something as little as bringing them coffee or a little note of encouragement many times is the motivator to be and give more.
9. Honor others. Twice I have seen ministries almost completely fall apart because of dishonor. Because of gossip and talking down about people especially the leadership. But in Scripture we see Jesus honoring people, speaking highly of people. Even people who don't deserve it. Like the sinner who pours oil on His feet and washes them with her tears. A sinner, someone who deserves no honor, Jesus thinks is worthy to praise and speaks highly of in front of a crowd of "important" people. Surely if the King of the universe can speak highly of people, so can we even if we don't agree with everything about them or the way they do things.
10. Admit when you’re wrong. It’s ok to not always know the answer. Admitting when you’re wrong or asking for someone’s opinion communicates humility and respect which are some of the deepest desires of a young person’s heart.
Laura, the creator and host of Missional Women is married and has four kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 11 years serving with Master Plan Ministries. Laura is the Staff Women's Development Coordinator and has discipled over 150 girls, led over 30 Bible studies and speaks 10-20 times a year. Laura is an award winning author of a 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, recently released Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, and A Devotional Journey through Judges, a devotional to accompany the free online Bible study at TheBookofJudges.com. You can find her on facebook,twitter, pinterest and youtube.
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