Lean Into The Problem

One of the coolest things about growing up in the generation I grew up in has been watching counseling become a mainstream thing. I feel like I’ve been able to watch very closely as culture has gone from brushing off counseling as an extreme solution for crazy people, to a normal and healthy habit in the life of someone who cares about their growth as a person.

And one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from spiritual advisors and counselors is that you almost never fully discover and embrace a solution until you’ve fully unearthed and explored the problem. This is something that makes complete sense to all of us in other areas of life (fixing a pipe, balancing a budget, healing a medical problem), but we seem to struggle with this in our development as people and followers of Jesus.

And our hesitancy to dig into the problem carries over in the way many of us teach the Bible to our students. Many of us typically glaze over “the problem” on the front end of our messages, and rush too quickly to the solution offered in Scripture.

Here’s the problem with that approach to teaching. YOU know that the Scripture you’re talking about offers solutions to some of the specific problems your students have. YOU know why their pride issue is harmful, or why their anger issue needs to be dealt with, or why they desperately need the Holy Spirit to speak into their dishonesty issues. YOU know that you’re offering extremely helpful answers to their specific problems.

But you know who doesn’t always know that? Your students.

Maybe it’s developmental. Maybe it’s just a life stage thing. But your students don’t always connect the dots on their own between the problems they have and the solutions you offer. And because they don’t always connect those dots themselves, oftentimes your students are missing out on why your messages COULD change everything for them because they don’t fully realize that this message IS FOR them.

They glaze over the solution because you’ve glazed over the problem.

So, youth worker, if you want your students to fully discover and embrace the solution you’re offering from Scripture in your messages, then you need to fully unearth and explore the problem on the front end in your messages.

Tease it out. Take your time with it. Explore what the problem is, how students can know that they have the problem, and why it matters that they find a solution to the problem.

As an example: “Today we’re going to talk about pride. Jesus doesn’t want you to be prideful! He wants you to be _____”

That is not unearthing and exploring the problem. You and I both know that there’s a whole lot more to pride than that–including symptoms of pride and, practically speaking, why Jesus isn’t a huge fan of it. You and I know that, as youth workers. But it’s entirely possible and maybe even probable that our students don’t–especially the students who most struggle with pride themselves.

So if you want students to know that this message is for them, take more time on the front end of your message to explore the problem. Take off your nice shoes, hike up your pant legs, and roll around in the mud of the problem before moving on to the solution found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your problem avoidance is a problem, and the solution is to delay the solution.


Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at mike@gshades.org
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