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youth ministry, student ministry, challenge student leaders

Challenge Trumps Encouragement

By Doug Franklin August 17, 2017

We live in a culture that thinks encouragement will solve students’ developmental self-esteem issues. If we tell students they’re awesome, then they’ll be awesome. This approach kind-of works, in that students do grow up to think they are awesome. But the truth is they haven’t done the hard work to be awesome. So while they feel good about themselves, they haven’t been tried and tested. When hardship comes, they ultimately fail and don’t know why.

“We are weak ourselves, and we risk producing an even weaker generation of students who have little fortitude to be disciples of Christ.”

While I’m a big believer in encouragement, I believe that it needs to be mixed with challenge. Encouraging allows you to just say something nice, but when you challenge a student, you point out an area where they have missed their potential. For that reason, challenging students will always be more difficult than giving them encouragement.

It’s pretty evident what holds us back: many of us are afraid to challenge. We’ve lost our will to make students great. We are weak ourselves, and we risk producing an even weaker generation of students who have little fortitude to be disciples of Christ. Jesus said that if we follow him, we will face hardship and trouble. Carrying a cross is never easy. Let’s help prepare our students for the challenges ahead.

Challenging students’ potential is an art, especially in this generation. It requires building trust. You have to show students that you are different, not like other adults who give them a free pass or shallow and fake encouragement. Your interactions must show that your goal is to call students to a higher standard of truth and accomplishment. And you may not always get positive responses from students. But take heart, the fruit of challenging students is well worth it.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More