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The Starting Point of Pastoring Students

Reality.

It’s the crucial word in this post-post-modern world. Many movies have played around this theme. Think of The Matrix, The Usual Suspects, Inception, and more recently Edge of Tomorrow.

Still, for many of us, it’s hard to grasp teens’ concept of reality, since it’s so different from ours. One area in which this plays out, is in pastoral conversations.

Think about it: what is the starting point when pastoring students? It’s the reality of their situation.

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Here’s the kicker though. The real starting point should not be the reality, but what they perceive as the reality. Big difference.

How students see themselves and their situation is real to them. We may have a different opinion and we may even be right in our analysis, but it doesn’t matter.

We can’t start an effective pastoral conversation with our reality as a starting point. In some ways, you could say that helping them discover the reality (I’m hesitant to use ‘our reality’ here because our view of the situation is just as much a perception as the student’s and we could be completely wrong in our assessment…) is the goal of the conversation, not the starting point.

If you want to help a teen in a difficult situation, start by accepting his or her perception as reality and go from there.

[Photo Credit; Steven DePolo, Flickr, Creative Commons]
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