Addressing Social Anxiety in Bible Classes for Young People

The New York Post recently ran an article claiming that young people are driven to tears by the idea of having to make an old fashioned phone call. Educators of teens and young adults regularly mention concerns that young people won’t look others in the eye or don’t want or know how to carry on a “normal” social conversation. While, I hesitate to group everyone in any generation together and assume they have the same strengths and weaknesses, the trends are disturbing – particularly for Christians.

Why? Because the charge of the Great Commission that Jesus gave the Apostles, disciples and all future Christians requires effective communication skills. If the young Bible students in your class are to effectively serve others and share their faith, they need to be comfortable having not only conversations, but also conversations that can be very difficult.

The problem goes beyond just teaching young people how to have important conversations or to look people in the eye when talking. Any solution also needs to address the social anxiety many young people feel when interacting with others. To put it in simple terms, the anxiety you might have felt (and possibly still feel) when asked to speak in front of a large group of people may be very similar to what some of your young Bible students feel when forced to have a conversation with one person or to make a telephone call.

Instead of making jokes or pressuring them, encourage them to express their fears and concerns. Help them develop strategies, like deep breathing and prayer, to calm their nerves. Discuss different types of conversations and how to handle them in loving, godly, effective ways. Give them opportunities to practice in a safe space until it becomes comfortable for them. For those who need it, help them improve their skills by actively teaching them and reminding them to use these new skills.

There are a lot of things that can stall the growth of the church in the future. Don’t let social anxiety or a lack of strong, godly communication skills be one of them.

Categories Culture, Elementary, Faith Based Academic Program, Mentoring, Special Needs, Teens
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