“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yeah, right. Every one of us who has survived puberty knows just how powerful words can be. Broken bones heal in six to eight weeks. Words like “stupid,” “fat,” and “ugly,” can hurt for years.
Often those comments can be shrugged off as things kids say before they know better. Other times, they come from trusted adults. People working with youth, such as parents and church youth leaders, most often use their words to build up and inspire, but there are times when we inadvertently say something very poorly.
Those poor word choices can have quite an impact on both the students to whom they are addressed and those who overhear them. Despite the intention to be helpful, humorous, or hurried, a leader’s words can sometimes be hurtful for the recipient. Here are some tips from United Methodist youth and children’s ministry leaders to help us keep miscommunication to a minimum.