Starting a Conversation With a Student

As a volunteer, Jasmine was at a Cru event that was an outreach to gather new students. Her staff team, volunteers, and student leaders invited high schoolers who had never been to Cru before. On the night of the event, there were a handful of new students. Jasmine was tempted to stay with the other volunteers because she felt a little awkward about approaching a student she did not know. She had to remind herself why she needed to start a conversation with these new students. She had a great desire to see them come to Christ, and she knew that God was calling her to engage with them even if it was out of her comfort zone. She said a quick prayer and walked up to two girls who were standing by themselves.

Why is starting a conversation so hard?

Casual conversations with students are not always easy. What is hard about starting conversations? Many students are insecure about meeting new people or going to a new event where they do not know anyone. Sometimes they have walls up, which makes it hard to engage with them. On the other hand, you may also feel insecure, and it is common to feel uneasy when striking up a conversation with someone you do not know.

Why start conversations?

It is good to remember that God has called you to this and getting to know a student is an act of love and courage. Usually, students will not initiate conversations with adults, so we need to do it. It is important for students to have relationships with trusted adults and older students in order to help them grow, get help with their needs, and talk through their problems. A lot of times, when students come to Cru, they are in a new environment for the first time. We need to go out of our way to talk to them and make them feel welcome. Initiating with students can be the spark that changes their life for eternity.

“If you are going to have a ministry, you must be willing to start conversations.”

How do I start a conversation?

Be Intentional

Think ahead of time about what you hope to accomplish. Pray specifically about how you want your conversations to go. Be intentional about remembering the names of the students you meet. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to take a group photo and practice the names of everyone you met in the photo. You could also keep notes of who you met and what you talked about with them. Next time you see them, circle back to what you discussed last time. If you get the student’s phone number, ask them to spell their name. This will help with name recognition the next time you see them.

Be Interested in Them

Asking questions and showing an interest in people usually results in a good conversation. A good way to start a conversation is to make a statement and ask a question, or simply just begin with a question. For example, you see a student in a Lakers t-shirt and you tell them you noticed their shirt. Then ask if they are a fan of the team. You could continue by asking if they play for the school team or if the school team is any good this year. Every student is interesting, but not every student has someone in their lives that sees them as interesting. Help your student see that they matter and that you notice that.

Find Common Ground

A genuine interest can go a long way and it always helps when you can find common ground. This could include, music, TV shows, sports, or social media. Asking about where the student grew up or about their family is also a good way to get to know them. “How did you hear about this meeting?” is a great launch point of any conversation at a Cru event. When you find a common interest, you will find that it does not take as much effort to connect with the student. You have a genuine desire to learn more about them and to help them connect with others around you.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Instead of huddling together with people you already know, try to engage with someone you have not already met. Remember, the goal is to be around students and get to know them through conversations. Try to identify what they care about.

Be Yourself

Usually, commonalities are found when we are being ourselves. God called you here and you have a place. You belong here just like they do, so enter in with that in mind. The students are not concerned with your background, accomplishments, or insecurities. God can use your experiences and interests to create connections, but most students just want to feel seen and cared for by you.

Seek to Serve Them

Be aware of students who are alone or new to your meeting. If someone is by themselves, invite them to do something like join in a game, help set up, pass out food, or gather other students when it is time to start the meeting. Consider what you might invite someone to do in order to help them feel included.

Some Starter Questions

Sometimes it can help to have some suggestions of what words to use to kick off the conversation. There is no end to the different ways a conversation could start, but, if you are stuck, here are some phrases that might help you step into a conversation with a student.

  • “Get to Know You” Questions
    • Are you new here? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.
    • Who did you come with?
    • What year are you in school?
    • Hey, I saw your t-shirt… Are you a Lakers fan? Who’s your favorite player?
    • How’s your day going?
    • How was school today?
    • Hi, my name is _____________. What’s yours?

"Remember that God has called you to this."

No Conversations = No Ministry

The bottom line is, if you do not do it, it will not happen. It is simple, no conversations, no ministry! Our role in student ministry requires us to take steps of faith. Starting conversations with students can be intimidating, daunting, or uncomfortable. The best way to move forward is to first pray. Ask God to give you guidance and fill you with his Spirit as you take this step of faith. Pray for wisdom and courage and that students would be open and willing to have a conversation with you. God does amazing things when we take steps of faith, so get out there and see what God will do. Start a conversation with a student you do not know this week! Maybe set a goal of how many students you will start a conversation with every week. A good starting point would be talking to two or more students each week.

So step out of your comfort zone and engage with students this week! You can do it!

For more on navigating conversations, read our article Navigating the Four Conversational Sound Barriers. In it, we have some suggestions on how to break through some difficult barriers in spiritual conversations.

Next Step
Ask God to direct you and then start one conversation this week with a student you do not know. Decide on several questions you can ask and see where the conversation goes!
This article is part of the Conversation Collection. Read the rest of these articles to get an even better understanding of how to have great conversations with students.


Cru Promo Videos

It was once said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, if that’s true, a video is worth a million. As we talk about Cru with students, administration, donors, volunteers, parents, and others, having a video can sometimes help them get the feel of what we do.

Below you’ll find a few videos that do just that. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, check our YouTube channels at Cru High School and Gotothecampus. If we’ve got it, it’ll be there.

Cru Promo Video – 3 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version (vertical)

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