Jun 14, 2009

Connecting / Communicating with Young People


What’s up with that young person who constantly talks through my message at youth church?
What’s up with those year 8 schoolboys who bring me to tears each Friday lunchtime as they disrupt my eloquent 3-minute discourse on peer pressure?
What’s up with those year eleven students who are constantly in another world when I start out with our small group discussion?
What’s up with that whole year level that goes to sleep when I present my seminar on ‘success’?
“What’s the problem with me, why don’t these young people listen?”

Everyone who works with young people desires to be able to communicate with them; life can be incredibly tough when you cannot connect with those who you are amongst. So what is the key I hear you ask, please rescue me from this generation who look so distinctly different from me and who sound like they speak another language.

After years of youth work I’ve heard many suggestions on communicating with this generation, all of which have been helpful, however I have come to my own conclusion that I have proven time after time no matter how big or small the crowd is that I talked to. It’s really easy; the answer is “distance”.

The best youth communicators on this planet are those who narrow the distance between themselves and the audience. Young people want to be personal; they want to see you, the speaker, what you are about not simply what you are about telling them.

Recently I was speaking with some year nine students in their lunch hour at school, I proceeded to give a presentation on the reality of peer pressure, it was all true and they looked somewhat interested. However, when I began to pour out my heart on the reality in my own life, starting to tell real life stories of my husband, and myself they were captivated. All of a sudden they got to see me, who Tina is and how this works in her life…the distance had been narrowed between them and me.

Opening up the window to your personal life or narrowing the distance is the key. Young people want to see your heart not just the stuff that is in your head. Get real is what this generation is crying out for! “Who are you”, a young person asks themselves, so let them see who you are! The sooner I came to this conclusion my whole level of connection with young people changed.

If I show people who I am, my heart, narrow the distance, will I get hurt? Maybe, but for the majority, who you will powerfully connect with, I say it’s worth it.
Gone are the days when young people will listen to anybody spout out anything regardless if it is the truth or not, the distance must be narrowed. The communicator must be ‘seen’.

This generation…. scary?…hard?…..harsh?….intimidating?……..possibly, but easy to communicate with if we can only narrow the distance when we speak!