JOY! 3 Ways to Help Students Experience it!


“I felt warm in my heart and so happy tonight when that student was sharing with me! It felt like I was doing the right thing! It felt so good!”

I was thrilled too as my daughter shared with me after youth night. My heart was also filled with joy!! I wished every parent, student and leader could feel this overwhelming sense of pure joy! Here are three ways that I believe we can help students experience JOY!

Students want Joy but it eludes them.

Like Charlie Brown, they feel that they should be happy but they just aren’t. Trying to make themselves happy doesn’t work. They may watch funny you tube videos, laugh for a bit but be quite far off from the experience of what the Bible calls Joy. I believe that we can help them in this quest by taking their eyes off of themselves and helping them focus on Christ and others. Here’s how…


1. Help them Experience Genuine Love

Somebody loves me! Have you seen a student gush when someone falls for them? They feel so special, beautiful and wanted. They are so joyful because of all the people in the world someone considers them attractive, desirable, accepted.

Is this possible without romance? I believe so. I think when students come to the realization that they are genuinely loved by a leader or a group they can have that same experience. One student shared with me. “I love the youth program so much because for the first time in my life I feel like I have friends who really want to spend time with me. I’d just so happy I can’t stop smiling when I think about my friends at the college!”

When we get love flowing in our groups students learn how to share care and concern for others. They learn to share affirming words and appropriate touch. As you have been hearing a lot lately youth groups need to be warm not cool. As students’ hearts are flooded with love they experience joy that overflows!


2. Help them Feel God Flow Through Them

Many students struggle with fear, guilt, anxiety and depression. Their go to emotion is not joy! What a difference overtakes them when they do something for God and in his strength. So often I wanted to take my heart out of my chest and put it into them so that they could share that feeling.

The better way to do it is to lead students into experiences where they are dependent on God and they allow him to work through them. It is not simple to set this up.

Recently students in the children’s program at my college ran a full day Christmas party for every grade in an urban school. The college students faces BEAMED as they returned from this day! Everyone told me that these students were filled with joy!!

What activities can you do with students so that they need God and they show compassion to others in his power… When they experience this they will want this feeling all of the time!

two beautiful teenage girls talking

3. Help Them to Naturally Share Christ

Students often feel guilty or useless when it comes to talking to people about Jesus. Whenever they think about this instead of feeling excitement they are tied up in emotional knots. Helping students to share their faith story naturally will be a breakthrough for most students that will flood their hearts with JOY!

One way we did that was having table talk at the end of our outreach night. There were some simple ice-breaking questions students had to answer then one of the students from our core group would be given a card that said something like “In under 2 minutes tell your table why you believe in Jesus and what he means to you today!” These students were helped in advance with preparing what to say.

One student, Jina, busting with excitement shared with me after one of these table talks, “Pastor Ron it was amazing! I shared my story and God gave me the courage to ask if anyone would like to put their faith in Jesus. My friend Mel said yes and so we all prayed that she would put her faith in Jesus! I was so surprised when she prayed to and asked Jesus to be her Savior!!

Any other Ideas?

These are three things that I find that work. What about you? Do you have ways that you are bringing students into the experience of Joy?

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email