How NOT to Give Advice to a Student

This post was inspired by a Tim Schmoyer post over at  I'm tackling #85 today.

If you're in ministry any length of time it's bound to happen...a student comes to you seeking advice.  This is an honor and a GREAT display of trust so it shouldn't be taken lightly.  So here's a quick list of 4 things to NOT do in this situation (side note: in the interest of transparency, I think I've done ALL of these things)

  1. Assume you have all the answers.  This is such an easy trap to fall into.  It plays to so many insecurities that plague most youth workers.  Be up front with your students and let them know that although you might not know all the answers, you will help them find the answers through the Bible, prayer, and other believers.  Not only does this show some honesty on your part, but it actually builds credibility for you when you DO have an answer.
  2. Assume growing up now is JUST like what you experienced.  I had a rough go with this one.  I started in full-time student ministry when I was the ripe, old age of 22.  Not an internship, a full-time student pastor so it was easy to relate to students (especially high schoolers) since I was fresh out of grade school.  BUT now, I've been out of high school for almost 13 years.  I'm married with a 2 year old and another child on the way.  Somewhere in the last 8 years I started relating less and less with my student's daily lives and more and more with their PARENT'S lives.  That means that no matter how hard I try to relate to everything my students are going through, I just can't.  The game has changed.  Of course there is another assumption we can't make that's on the other end of this spectrum...
  3. Assume EVERYTHING has changed since you were a teen.  Clothes, hair, trends, and music constantly change, but you know what doesn't change?  Growing up is all about figuring out your place in the world.  The path to adulthood might look a lot different now, but there are a lot of underlying themes that EVERYONE faces during and after adolescents.  Fitting in, peer pressure, relationships, gossip, bullying, the list goes on and on of issues that you probably faced (and still face) that are common to teenagers even today.  So don't focus on the fact that your brother stole your cassette tapes and you had to wind them all back up.  Instead focus on how it felt that something was taken from you and you wanted justice and revenge.
  4. Assume once you'll only have to deal with the issue once and move on.  If only life were as simple as Boy Meets World (which I can't BELIEVE is getting a comeback), one episode and Corey never had to deal with cheating again.  Life doesn't work that way.  That conversation you're having with a high school guy about his porn addiction is probably going to happen more than once (or more than a dozen times).  Don't get discouraged.  Remind yourself of how many times you've confessed that pet sin of yours to God.  How many times you've swore you wouldn't do it again.  How many times you thought the problem was over only to relive the same fall, guilt, shame, and forgiveness again.

What would you add to the list?  Have you ever failed miserably with a piece of advice?