A mistake is a mistake.
How we respond to our mistakes is crucial.
College can be a time where students engage in activities and make mistakes which they had never planned on. Unfortunately within the Christian community often our identity is framed by the things we “don’t do” and places we “don’t go.” When a Christian in college begins to engage in activities that they hadn’t planned on, one mistake can turn into a major crisis.
One mistake can shift a behavior from something they don’t do to something they do all the time. One mistake can leave someone questioning what they really believe about God and grace. One mistake can leave a college student feeling like an outsider and hypocrite when they are around other people, particularly Christians.
In other words, one mistake can undercut a young person’s understanding of their very identity.
As a youth minister, there are points at which I do not want to and cannot keep a college student from making a mistake. I’ve come to understand that part of our role as a church in preparing students for the transition to college is preparing them for mistakes of circumstances and choices. Not only do we want to prepare them for mistakes, but we also want to prepare their parents to respond well when their children make mistakes.
Together we’ve started asking parents and students both to create an Emergency Response Plan. This plan is something a student can refer to as a source of encouragement, especially when they make mistakes. It is the kind of thing you put in your wallet and pull out as either a preventive or restorative measure in response to mistakes. The Emergency Response Plan has become another tool to help students and families respond well and find encouragement when mistakes do happen.
Here’s how we frame the key elements of the Emergency Response Plan:
1) Warning signs that an emergency situation is approaching
2) Remember truths outside of your situation or circumstances
3) Read scriptures, quotes, lyrics or poetry that speak of a God who is bigger than our mistakes.
4) Listen to songs that contain powerful memories and reminders of truths you need to hear.
5) Prayers to pray in the times that you don’t have your own words to pray that recognize God’s love, power and grace.
6) Contact people who you know you can call in the moments preceding or following a mistake.
We actually have students write these things out, and when possible involve their parents in the process.
What ideas do you have for helping students formulate a plan for when they make mistakes?