Ask About the Worst

A few weeks ago, I sat down next to an eighth grade boy. Wanting to engage him in conversation, I asked, “How's school?”

I got a typical junior high boy answer: “Good.”

So I asked him a follow-up question. “What's been good about it?”

To which he shrugged and said, “I don't know.”


Rather than get frustrated, I switched tactics. “What's been the worst part of school so far?”

Suddenly, this boy got animated. He proceeded to describe a class he hated and the reasons behind his distaste for it.

As a veteran youth worker, I like to think that I know how to engage youth in conversation – even the silent ones. And to some extent, I do.

Yet, the reality is that a good conversation with a student – especially junior high boys – usually only happens after a great deal of persistence.

I persist because I know that eventually, I can get someone talking.

But what about new adult leaders? Will they persist through the awkwardness of a conversation in order to get to the good stuff?

Not always.

Too often, adult leaders have only the first half of my conversation with a student. They ask several questions that elicit one-word responses or even worse, a shoulder shrug. Eventually, they get frustrated and find a way to exit the conversation, often concluding that a teen has no interest in talking to them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Read the rest of this article here.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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