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student ministry, youth worker, youth ministry

Teaching Decision Making

By Doug Franklin February 7, 2013

When I was a kid my parents had this plan to teach my older brother how to make good decisions. They gave him $25 per month and he had to meet all of his needs with this money: clothes, haircuts, school activities and hang-out with friends stuff. (In 1974 things were much cheaper). The idea was he would learn to budget money and make good decisions with what was given him. This was a disaster. My brother used the money to buy pizza for himself and his friends. Within a few months my brother was broke and my parents were embarrassed by how long his hair was.

Some people spend their whole life trying to avoid making decisions. Decisions require people to know where they are going, to have values and focus.  I think most people dislike leadership because it requires them to make decisions.  Most people like to rely on others to give them direction.  I see this in student leaders.  Ever notice when a student leader has to make a decision, they lose all confidence.  It’s like the power went off in their brain.  They are overwhelmed by the idea that other students will not like their idea or will dislike them because of the decisions they make.  This peer pressure is real.  This is due in part because students dislike the people who make decisions in their life so they think other students will dislike them for making decisions.  Ah authority.  If we want our students to lead we are going to have to teach them how to make decisions.

So how do we teach students to make decisions?

Decisions come from beliefs
Students need to know what they believe.  The best way to do this is ask your students to teach in your ministry.  The minute you reverse the teacher/student format and your students become the teachers you will learn what they really believe.  A number of years ago Harvard Law School adopted this method of teaching and it changed the school and made better lawyers. We could learn from them.  We need to stop talking and let the students talk.  You will be surprised what you learn.  When students know what they believe they will make better decisions.

Decisions come from confidence
For a student to grow in confidence, students need an adult who will connect the dots for them concerning how God has wired them (gifts, skills, unique abilities, and personality) and how it can be used in real life.  This positive encouragement will help students begin to take risks.

Decisions come from strong examples
Students need adults to be risk takers that will offer positive support, while giving students leadership opportunities that safely allow success and failure to fall into their hands.  When a student senses you believe in them, their belief in themselves will also grow.

Students also need an adult who will be consistent through all the inconsistencies of being a teenager.  This adult holds students to a high expectation, but never abandons them when they’re going through failure.  This kind of relationship produces unshakeable confidence.

Decisions come from commitment
When it comes time for tough decisions many students do what they always do when things are hard: quit. They have learned that adults will then step in and rescue them. We need to let students sit in struggles and allow them at times to fail.  Failure is the foundation of commitment.  This is hard to do in our culture but if we don’t all we are really doing is creating a generation of quitters.

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