If we are to help students become more like Jesus then we must learn to navigate in a world that thinks accountability is judgmental. So, how do we navigate?
1. See the Opportunity: We have a great opportunity, we really do. Each and every time we confront or encourage students we have a chance to teach them about the God we love. Their view of Him is that of a policeman who is only concerned with them when they fail. So when students fail, the way we respond has the potential to absolutely blow their mind, and help them see Jesus. After all, the grace we are given is mind-blowing.
2. Build a Relationship: In our last post, Mike Suit made it very clear that when we are in healthy relationships with students, accountability becomes a partnership to become like Jesus. Therefore we need to intentionally give time to cultivating healthy relationship with students. Relationship is the platform from which we challenge and affirm.
3. Redefine Judgmental: Even after hundreds of hours of video games, pizza and Mountain Dew, even after we wait with a student because their ride is 45 minutes late, even though we have invested in them and have a good relationship, we are still going to hear students say “Stop Judging Me! It says in the Bible not to judge”. When students say this we need to be able to correct them clearly, quickly and with grace. We have to help student’s redefine judgmental.
- Judgmental is Self-Righteous: The infamous verse in Matthew 7:1 is what students quote when they are confronted about behavior. The problem is that we should never pull out just one verse and build an entire argument on it. In context, what Jesus is teaching us is that we are not meant to be self-righteous, overlooking our own faults and seeing only the failures of others. Instead, we should remove the logs in our eyes and then we can be more helpful. We are not meant to elevate ourselves above others.
- Pointing out the inappropriate stuff is healthy: Followers of Jesus should care enough about each other that we correct each other. The other day I had a conversation with someone who posted something inappropriate on Facebook. I know that sounds really farfetched, but it honestly did happen. Anyhow, I confronted this person and basically said “hey, I love you, this was not ok, maybe you didn’t realize it, so I wanted to help you see it”. In fact, this person did not see it. When I realized this I said “we all have blind spots, I have some too, so when you can see what I can’t, please care enough about me to let me know”. Which brings me to the next idea.
- We are all in this together: Disciples of Jesus are willing to help each other and are open to accountability. On the other hand when we are judgmental and self-righteous, we are not open to accountability because we are above everyone else. Students need to feel like you are in it with them. Do not be a leader who simply points the finger, instead do everything you can to come alongside of students.
4. Realize that students struggle to separate: Students often have a hard time separating their failure from who they are. For example, if they fail a test in school they think “I’m a failure” when the truth is that they really only failed a test. This is important to keep in mind when challenging students. When we point out their failures they can easily begin to believe that we think they are a failure as a person. When we disapprove of their actions students make the jump in their minds to us disapproving of them. So our response to students should always include huge amounts of affirmation. In fact we should intentionally allow our challenge to lead right into encouragement.
Helping students to re-think “judgmental” is no easy task. Do not be discouraged when students do not respond favorably. Some students have open, teachable hearts and some do not. In the moment, it can be very difficult to know the difference. So be encouraged, keep seeking Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust that the grace and love you show through both encouraging and challenging students will bear fruit.