The 8 Most Important Words You Can Say to a Student

Pain. Joy. Despair. Hope. Agony. Elation.

You feel them one at a time, and yet you feel them all at once. There are no words to truly describe you feel when you lose someone you love.

I lost a student yesterday. He wasn’t just any student. I know we aren’t allowed to have favorites, but he was one of mine. He loved God with all of his heart. He served Him with everything he had. Many times I would arrive at Youth Service to discover he had walked there, guitar in hand. I would chuckle to myself when I would get a phone call from him on the rare Friday night when there was no Youth Service, asking me where everyone was. He loved church. He loved ministry.

I will always remember the last conversation I had with him. I had been asked to preach for my home church Sunday morning, where I had been his Youth Pastor for several years. We had an incredible move of God, with several baptized and first-time visitors seeking the Holy Ghost. The pastor got delayed with hospital visits that afternoon and called me back to have me preach that night. When I came to the platform, the young man walked up to me. He never quite got the Pentecostal lingo down, but he said to me sincerely, “I really enjoyed your message this morning. It was real church-y and revival-y. It was great seeing people praying for the Holy Ghost and getting baptized. We need more of that.”

His heart was beating for revival. I saw him one last time the following Sunday (we have been attending church there while we are in the process of launching our church plant). During the altar call, I asked him and several other young men to pray over me and our church. They did so earnestly. Then I hugged each one of them, including him. Then I uttered the last words I’d ever say to him:

“I love you, and I believe in you.”

A huge grin crept across his face. I know he believed me. After all, he must have heard it 1,000 times over the years. He heard it when he was the quiet, shy 12-year-old in my Jr High class that was so painfully unsure of himself. He heard it when he came out of his shell, and became the life of every youth party. He heard it the day he received the Holy Ghost. He heard it when he started goofing around on the guitar, still not quite sure what he was doing. He heard it when he became the centerpiece of the youth worship team. Finally, he heard it Sunday, as he stood in the altar for the last time.

There are times we have to correct students. There are times we must even discipline them. There are times when we must use our God-given authority to deal with a situation. I have found, though, that few things we do impact a student more than encouraging them. To know that we love them and believe in them. That is what they need more than anything.

As much as we want to believe things like this won’t happen to our students, they do. We never know what moment will be the last, so make every moment count. Tell them. Tell them every week. Tell them one-on-one. Let your students know that you are in their corner, and you are cheering them on. Let them know you love them, and you believe in them.

1 thought on “The 8 Most Important Words You Can Say to a Student

  1. So sad and heartbroken for everyone that knew him; I didn’t have that privilege.

    Love this blog post; made me cry. We really can’t love or be loved enough can we? We lost a 22 year old a few months ago, he hadn’t attended church in a long time, but we all grew up with him. It’s amazing how close a tragedy can bring everyone.

    Praying for you guys.

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