I think we’ve all had those students that we just can’t get to engage. Maybe they are really shy or maybe they just aren’t interested in conversation with the youth leader. Whatever the reason, I hope these tips will help you to strike up a conversation with even the most hesitant students.
Find out what they love. Every student has something they are into and really love. Pay attention, do a little research and find out what’s their “thing.” Then bring it up in conversation in a way that lets them share about it, even if it’s something you know nothing about. It’s best to bring it up in a way that doesn’t imply that you have been gathering intel about them. Being creepy doesn’t help the situation! For example, I had a particularly shy student who I found out was really into Stranger Things (which I have never watched). So, I casually said something like, “Brad (my husband) just started watching this show called Stranger Things. Have you heard of it?” I instantly became much cooler because I’m married to someone who watches Stranger Things (remember, I know nothing about it). I had a 10 minute, very excited conversation with a student that I couldn’t get to look at me the week before. Now, every time I see him, we talk about the show (although I still need to watch it). Finding a way to connect to each student is the best way to getting them talking.
Be genuine and listen. Students can tell if you are genuinely interested in having a conversation or not and they definitely know when you aren’t engaged in the conversation. Be genuine when you are speaking to students. Don’t try to put on an overly excited or cheery front, because they can see through that as well. Then, make sure you listen and pay attention. If you are distracted by other things or thinking about what to say at the end of your message, they will pick up on that. And when talking with a student who already has a difficult time coming out of their shell to talk to you, being distracted will most likely end the current conversation and make starting future ones all the more difficult.
When all else fails, try humor. Humor is the universal ice breaker. Get them to laugh with you and chances are, you can get them talking. I’ve seen an entire Bible study group come out of their shells because of Laughy Taffy jokes. It works. I promise.
USED WITH PERMISSION FROM Chasity Opphile