Every youth minister wants to create a safe place for students to grow in their faith. S.A.F.E. is an acronym that helps discipline and reinforce appropriate behavior in a positive manner.
First, we want to create a spiritual environment. The purpose of our classroom time is to focus on the spiritual development of each student. We commit to using scripture at every class with a one-hundred dollar pledge, barring some catastrophe, to each student if we don’t. Over a year later and the students remember that promise. Our students find that this is a S.A.F.E. place to mature in their walk with Christ.
Our next commitment to making junior high ministry a S.A.F.E. place is to “Ask and Answer” questions. There is a lot of talking going on in our classroom and conversations often overlap. Teachers ask questions of students and they are expected to do their best in giving an answer.
Every answer is valued and received graciously, but asking and answering is a two-way street.
We give our students’ freedom to ask the questions that were rumbling around in their heads and spilling out of their mouths. Our students know this a S.A.F.E. place to ask questions and get answers from people who deeply care for them.
Developing friendships is an integral part of the adolescent experience, so we are determined to create a place where students can make friends in the context of a S.A.F.E. environment. We have times where we eat, play games and fellowship. We set aside the first ten minutes of the class to casually socialize with each other. Students find that this is a S.A.F.E. place where they can make friends.
Those who work with junior high schoolers know that they can be cruel to one another through name-calling. These verbal jabs typically target areas of a student’s self-identity.
In the S.A.F.E environment, students are encouraged not only by the leaders but by each other.
We address negative comments by asking, “Did that comment help make a friend of that person?” or “Was that comment encouraging?” We focus on positive behavior rather than the negative. Our students find that this is a S.A.F.E. place where they are encouraged.
I wish I could say that every week is a S.A.F.E. week. Occasionally my intentions as a leader are better than my actions. Sometimes our junior high schoolers slip back into some bad habits. However, we are reminded each week that church is to be a S.A.F.E. place.
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