October 5, 2015

4 Questions to Ask College Students

The life of a college student is not so carefree. Active shooters on campus are a real threat. A load of debt kicks in after graduation. The job market is bleak. Therefore, conversations with college students need to be attended by thoughtfulness. "What is your major?" and "What year are you in?" are okay, but "Do you have any job prospects?" can add to existing anxiety.

Some church members feel that college students are not worth the effort because they are only around for four years and don't contribute much to the church. Personally, I am thankful for my church's college students. They may be the church leaders of tomorrow, they are a privilege to minister to, and they often energize my outlook.

Here are four questions that may put college students within your church at ease and help you to understand their needs.

1. How was your weekend? Every college student I know asks me this question every Monday morning. So, I see it as a non-threatening way to get insight into what a student values beyond her studies. I prefer this wording over "What did you do this weekend?," which insinuates that every weekend has to be Facebook-worthy. Be aware that on the college campus, weekends are times of increased peer pressure to pursue things that don't honor God.

2. Have you met any other Christian professors or students at your school?  Have you gotten to know them outside of class? Secular schools are sadly lacking in Christian fellowship and encouragement. In addition, serious students don't have much spare time to develop relationships. So, this question is designed to open your eyes to what Christian students face and inform your prayers. If you have professors in your church, please introduce them to the student.

3. What are some ways that our church can minister to you? Don't presume that you know what students want and develop a church program around that. Instead, ask their opinions. And, I think students are more apt to be involved in something they helped establish. One advantage that the church has over the college is that it doesn't treat people like numbers.

Those students who are motivated to go to church when everyone else is sleeping in are exceptional. You want to do everything possible to welcome and care for them.

4. Do you want to go to Chipotle's? This is a question a college student suggested online, and it makes sense to me from a Christian hospitality perspective. Students may not have opportunities to get off campus or to be around people who are not 18 to 21 years old. Dining hall food is not that tasty, and some students don't have money to eat elsewhere. So, taking a student to Chipotle or a similar off-campus restaurant may be something she would enjoy. In the process, you can get to know the student better and have a godly influence on her.

More in this series:
4 Questions to Ask a Stay-At-Home-Mom
4 Questions to Ask an Older Woman
4 Questions to Ask a Child

September 28, 2015

4 Questions to Ask a Child

Children can be difficult conversation partners.

Sometimes they freeze at any adult attention, twisting themselves into Mommy’s skirt faster than you can say “hello there!” Sometimes they begin eagerly to speak to you, but a friend or a spider redirects their energies and, with a whirl, they disappear. Sometimes, they’ve just woken on the wrong side of the pack n’ play or been forced to eat Brussels sprouts for snack, and you wouldn't get a cheerful word out of them even if you offered them a Blue Razz Blow Pop in exchange.

Children are shy, distractible, irritable, talkative, uncomfortable, and affectionate.  In short, they are pretty much like adults.

And, just like their grown-up counterparts, they want to be asked questions that demonstrate genuine interest in them as people. I’m quite sure that when the little ones were brought to Jesus he looked them in the eyes and asked them the same kind of perceptive questions he asked everyone else who came to him. After all, they belong to the kingdom, too (Matt. 19:14).

So, here are four questions to try on that freckled kid--that image-bearing human being--in the next pew:

1. Instead of: How are you? Try: Tell me what I should know about second grade/youth soccer/Barbies/Minecraft. Kids don’t know how they are. Half the time, I don’t know how I am. Making yourself a learner, allowing the child to be the expert, and inviting him to tell you about a specific part of his life is much more likely to give you insight into his joys and struggles.

2. Instead of: What did you do last week? Try: What did you have for breakfast this morning? Kids can’t remember yesterday, and they can’t remember whether "last week" was really last Wednesday or last February. Asking kids about their breakfast is my favorite non-threatening kid conversation starter. Chances are, if you ask a child what she had for breakfast, she’s also going to tell you what Daddy had and what the dog had and what they all did for fun afterwards.

3. Instead of: How’s school? Try: What is your teacher’s name? or Who are your friends? or What do you play at recess? “School” is too big for children to assess and explain. But they can talk all day about the minute details of their academic life. The kid at Table 3 who threw a temper tantrum and had to be sent to the principal’s office. Five. Times. The teacher who had a bad year in fourth grade herself and who doesn’t want anyone else to have a bad fourth grade year. The soccer games at recess that are totally rigged to favor the sixth graders and the mystery of why the teachers allow it. If you really want to know about school, you just have to ask.

4. Instead of: What are you going to do this week? Try: I’m going to pray for you after I get home. What should I pray for you about? Kids don’t make plans. They don’t remember plans. They don’t know they are going on a beach vacation until the sand squishes between their toes. Instead, ask them what you can pray for. This will tell you what’s important to them—their paper-cut finger, the dent in Mommy’s car, their missing kitten—and it will allow you to demonstrate love.

That’s what we all want, anyway.

More in this series:
4 Questions to Ask a Stay-At-Home-Mom
4 Questions to Ask an Older Woman
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