4 Tools for Talking to Teenage Trees


Sometimes starting a conversation with middle schoolers and high schoolers is much like trying to talk to a tree. It stands there and occasionally will give you a piece of fruit to chew on or maybe just a hint of the seeds of the fruit you may be able to notice around it.

In youth ministry, it is hard to minister to students if you don’t know how to breakthrough and start a conversation with them!

4 Keys to Talking to Trees and starting conversations

Check the Month: Every month of the calendar has either a holiday, Homecoming/Sadies dance, or special break.  Use these natural events on the calendar to launch into conversation. By asking simple questions like, “what are you doing for spring break?” and “Are you going to Homecoming?” help you get a peek into what their world is like at school, home, and socially.

Tally Game: You can play this game every week with one tally sheet topic, or this game can be played with several different types of tally sheets. Have leaders walk around with clip boards taking tallies between two different football teams (Alabama vs Auburn) or two types of pizza places (a local brand vs a franchised brand).  This great because it gets students excited, and sometimes they will even debate the topic!  Then announce the tally winners during announcements.

What, when, where, but never why: In college I had a professor that used to say that “what, when, where, but never why” was the key to small group leading.  If you begin questions with those words typically students will open up.  “Why” questions put people on the defense, so you don’t want to ask that unless you absolutely have to do so.

Be Yourself: Oftentimes, babies will get tense and cry if the person holding them is tense and anxious. Students, just like adults, can sense when people are not being genuine or authentic. If you are the dude that loves video games, then find some gamer students to connect with and talk about it.  If you are a girlie girl who loves the color mint, then talk about mint colored shoes with some girlie girls.  Students will want to connect with you, if you will just be you.



Caroline has served in student ministry for almost 10 years, and is currently the Youth and Young Adult Minister at Destin United Methodist Church in Destin, FL and co-founder of WAVES Girls Event, a conference for girls ages 14-24. Getting a call into youth ministry at age 16 in Nashville, TN led to Caroline getting a degree in Youth and Family Ministry and a certificate through PREPARE/ENRICH for Premarital Counseling at Abilene Christian University in 2009. She got her start in full time student ministry at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX. Caroline loves to encourage students in their faith, and see them be lights in their community. Some things Caroline enjoys is time on the beach, reading, sushi, coffee, traveling and time with her friends and family. You can follower her on her blog, called “Big Hare & Big Faith,” www.carolinehare.wordpress.com, or on Instagram and Twitter: @CarolineHare