Helping students become more devoted followers of Christ is what discipleship is all about. As we all know, this happens most effectively in relationship. The more authentic your relationship is with your students, the more potential there is for both of you to grow closer to Christ.
Creating shared experiences outside of your normal small group meeting is vital to growing your relationship. Plus, it can be a whole lot of fun.
Here's five reasons why shared experiences are vital to growing and strengthening your relationship with your students.
1. Something To Talk About
Having a shared experience opens up conversation in a way that nothing else will. This can be a HUGE advantage if you're just starting to build a relationship with students, have a couple students who are slow to open up, or have an entire group that just isn't crazy about engaging in discussion. Being able to talk about an interception in a football game or a funny story from a camping trip can provide you with a great way to get students out of their shells.
2. Comfortable Environments For Open Discussion
I have struggled in the past to get my group of 10th grade guys to really engage in "beyond surface level" conversations. But I found that when we were at a game, or at a mission project, or just hanging out, I could engage students in conversation that felt much more natural and organic. For me and for many students, sitting in a circle in a room at your church or in someone's living room may not be the most conducive environment for opening up. But shooting a basketball together might be just the thing to create a great environment for conversation.
3. Meeting/Involving Parents
I'm lucky that all my guys play sports. It's SO easy to go to a game and both support the student and meet his parents. So many times, the shared experiences we have with students outside of our normal meeting times allow for the opportunity to meet parents. Or at least to involve them.
4. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The worst thing you can do is to say you're there for your students, to talk about how much the group means, etc., but then to never follow up with any sort of extra-curricular time together. When you only hang out with students during the "official" designated times, you communicate through your actions that this group or these students are more like a job or a task than a real relationship. Shared experiences show students you care in a way that words can't.
5. Not Always Fun, But Always Meaningful
Funerals, hospital visits, tough service projects . . . These aren't fun. But your presence there will always be meaningful. Don't shy away from the un-fun stuff. These times are the times when relationship is both needed and grown.