by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor – Youth and Young Adults
“Conversations matter. Too often we get caught up in the uncertainty of where to begin or wondering what questions to ask.” – Jennifer Guerra Aldana, Fuller Youth Institute
After being a youth pastor for over 15 years I have realized that one tool almost more than any other seems to bridge gaps, break down walls, and connect students into the ministry. It’s a simple tool that we often forget, yet everyone can do. It can begin, repair, and restore a relationship. It’s what parents most ask me to do with their students.
“My kid just needs someone to talk to someone, will you talk with my son or daughter?”
Conversations Matter. People yearn to be seen, to be heard, to be recognized, to be known. People desire to have a connection with someone beyond the screen. While a teen may push you away because they are so deeply entrenched in the screen, what they would rather have is a conversation. The screen is an inept replacement for the human connection they are lacking.
When we first had our kids, the screen became a babysitter. I’m not going to lie, it was easier to set my kid in front of screen then to engage them in the world they were experiencing and desiring to express. Sometimes for hours on end their eyes glued to the screen when looking away from the screen felt like an alternate reality to them. One of the things we noticed is the behavioral changes within my kids as they grew more and more accustom to being entertained by the screen. Now I’m not saying all things digital are bad, but the sheer volume has encapsulated our society.
According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, nearly half an adults’ day is dedicated to consuming this content. In fact, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media. Behind this surge are the growing use of new platforms, as well as the younger, multicultural generations who leverage them.
Isn’t it interesting how a single question can turn a one-minute conversation into a 15-minute conversation into a lifelong friendship? I remember working at a coffee shop when I was 17 and this lady would come in every day. I was a faithful worker and did my job, but I was not much of a conversationalist as a teenager. Each day I would get her usual and proceed with the transaction as normal. Our conversations were brief and more on the efficiency side than the relational side. But one day, for some odd reason, I decided to ask her about her day and her family. I listened loosely initially but then over time I began to listen more intently. She would mostly talk, and I would mostly listen. I worked at that coffee shop for two years and each day the same lady would come in. I didn’t think much of it, until the last day of me working there. She asks if I could come talk with her one last time as she heard I was leaving. She asked me if I knew the reason, she came to this coffee shop as opposed to Starbucks or Peets, both around the corner? I shrugged my shoulders. It wasn’t because of the coffee, but because of the conversation she said. She was older, lived alone, and was retired. Her conversations with others were sparse and so she found great joy and comfort in conversing with me even if it was for a few brief moments each day. She yearned for connection. Conversations matter. Connections Matter. Jesus understood the importance of conversations. A conversation could invite a “Fisherman,” yes, a “Fisherman” into leadership, and it could restore a wandering woman at the well.
So what conversations will you have today? How will you use those conversations to bring about connection? How can you use that connection to drive people closer to Christ?