Moving the Middle in Ministry: Why Students Going Second is a Win - Reframeyouth

Moving the Middle in Ministry: Why Students Going Second is a Win

Youth ministry — the juggling act between serious discussions and scarfing down pizza.

Our collective quest is to teach students a rich faith that guides them through the labyrinth of adolescence, where every twist and turn could reveal a golden nugget of shared revelation or a wall of silence.

But amidst the chaos and cacophony of youth ministry, a subtle art often goes unrecognized—moving the middle.

Moving the middle means I make something difficult to talk about seem less difficult by being the one to say it first or I say something more difficult, so everything afterward seems less extreme, controversial and intimidating to say.

Giving students the gift of going second and your willingness to set the tone of vulnerability could be the key to unlocking a treasure trove of connection and growth in your group.

Unpacking the Power of Going Second

Imagine this scene: you've just dropped a question, something deep. Maybe it's about fears, struggles, or moments of heroism in their daily grind. A student's gaze shifts from you to the floor as the silence unfolds.

You start worrying about going lighter, maybe cracking a joke. And then, compelled by the Holy Spirit, you break that silence. You share experiences with everyone on the question you asked, and something miraculous happens —they start to share, too.

It's a subtle shift in the conversation, but it has powerful results.

Breaking The Ice

The idea isn't to make the conversation about you but to create an atmosphere where sharing isn't a spotlight but a safety net. When you offer up your experiences, show them that vulnerability is safe and their story isn't alone or absurd. You're not just permitting them to speak; you're making it known that their words won't fall on deaf ears.

Building Community

Young minds often believe they tread a solitary, significant path through life's experiences. Yet, hearing others share similar stories illuminates a shared experience—proof they belong to a tribe that can empathize and support. This helps build community by binding, strengthening, and deepening relationships.

Setting the Bar of Expectation

By sharing openly and honestly, you’re setting a standard for the depth of conversation you are willing to have in the group. It’s a subtle challenge you’re issuing — one of participating at the level where real change and growth can happen. This is where God, the Holy Spirit, works in ways we can't.

The Waves of Vulnerability

Moving the Middle is about riding the waves of vulnerability correctly. But what exactly are these 'waves'? Think of them as the natural tides in your group's trust-building ocean. You want to encourage sharing, but the timing must be right.

The Ripple Effect — Starting Small

Some topics demand depths one can't plunge into right out of the gate. You're initiating conversation in wading-pool waters by sharing your stories of mishaps, quirky interests, or light-hearted defeats. It's vulnerable but approachable—a splash in the kiddie pool to test the waters.

The Flowing Conversation — Maintaining the Current

Once the group is in conversational swing, it's about stoking relatable stories that still hold emotional weight. These could be tales of resilience in adversity or moments that brought genuine change.

The Breaker Topics — Rising to the Occasion

There comes a time when vulnerability has to sail through rougher waters to reach the next level. Here’s where discussions turn seismic, touching on issues like mental health, grief, and deeper struggles that are universal yet shrouded in societal silence.

Practical Ways to Take the Plunge

Enough with the theory; here come the plays. Practical steps are where talking about it transforms into being about it—literal steps that hold the line between intention and impact. Here are some ways to shepherd your students towards ‘going second’:

Share Without Shame

Before expecting your group to open up, you must model shameless sharing. This is the 'show, don't tell' moment where your openness is about authentic experience. If you can't share without shame, there may be some work for you to do. You can't take your students to a place you haven't been.

Normalize Real Talk

In a digital world of highlight reels, the grit of real conversation can feel threatening. Yet, by constantly, casually disclosing it in your sessions, you're reminding your students that real talk isn't out of place; it's the transformational space missing from their lives, and they get it in your group in a way they don't anywhere else.

Nudge, Don’t Nuke

Your role isn't to push them into sharing but to gently nudge them towards it. It’s about encouraging, not coercing. Sometimes, all it takes is a well-placed nod of understanding or a shared smile of ‘we've been there, too.’

The art of ‘going second’ isn't just a tactic in a youth leader's toolkit; the brushstroke gives life and depth to the communal canvas your ministry paints. By setting the example, you’re fostering an environment of trust and giving young voices a power of their own that echoes beyond the walls of your ministry.

Your teaching them how to engage with God, themselves, and others that will help spiritually form them for the rest of their lives.

Jordan Francis Pic

Jordan Francis is the CEO of Reframe Youth, which creates youth ministry curriculum from the urban context. He's a devoted family man, blessed with three children, and has been happily married to his wife Katie for 10 years. They currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona. Jordan is also a licensed therapist in Arizona. He brings his professional expertise to bear on his work, focusing on adolescent issues and marital counseling. This dual role enables him to approach youth ministry from a unique perspective, integrating therapeutic insights into his curriculum design. Beyond his professional commitments, Jordan is a soccer player, an avid reader, and enjoys engaging in philosophical discourse.

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