The exam season is upon us once again. A time where the only thing teenagers seem to talk about is revision and the pressure of sitting exams. It’s also a time where attendance at our youth meetings can fluctuate with the assumption, “they must have exams”. Whilst exams are an important part of the summer term for teenagers, they don’t have to be held as the most important. So how do we as youth leaders help young people cope with the demands of GCSEs and A levels?
Here are 5 ways which anyone can help young people not just survive the exam period, but to thrive.
1. Keep the right perspective
I was speaking to a youth worker yesterday who told me how one young person she knows said to her that he was going to ‘put God on hold’ for a couple of months while he focuses on his exams. Most of our teenagers probably wouldn’t admit this out loud, but there is a genuine danger that how they live their lives would reflect this attitude. It appears that in today’s culture we have made exams an idol. They are the most important element of the teenage life up to this point in their lives. But this is, of course, not how it should be. God should always be the most important part of our lives. We need to gently help young people remember this by asking them how they are staying in relationship with him through this busy season, encouraging them to keep reading the Bible each day and to attend church and youth group each week. Help them realise that God is with them always, even in the examination room, so to walk with him through these months, not to ignore him.
2. Ask for their exam timetable
Show you care by requesting a copy of their exam timetable and then promise to pray for them on the days they have exams. This is something useful and practical we can do. Ask God to help them remember all they have learnt in the years leading up to the exams and to help them write clearly and to give their best. By doing this we model leaning on Jesus and walking with him. You might like to compile an exam timetable for all your young people and then share them out so that the group are encouraged to pray for each other. This will help remind them to keep God as their main perspective.
3. Message them on exam day
A quick message to say that you are praying for them and you hope the exam goes well can go down so well with the students. It reminds them that they are not alone and that there are people who love them and understand what they are going through. Send a message to celebrate when a week of exams are over and especially when they are all finished. Being part of their exam season is important for sharing life together and for building community amongst the group.
4. Encourage them with Scripture
Send the occasional Bible verse to them to encourage them to keep going. It will help them get a little Bible nourishment, give them something to reflect and pray on, as well as giving them the Word of God to take with them into their exams. If they haven’t been reading their Bibles, it will be like water to parched soil so will be essential nutrients for them.
5. Ask about their study/fun/rest balance
Over the years I have seen many young people who feel that the exam season is a time for two things: taking exams and revising for them. There is almost a sense of guilt if they find themselves doing anything else. Indeed, this is what makes revising so difficult. I am sure most teenagers spend more time feeling guilty about not revising than actually revising itself!
We should be asking each person how they are doing with the life balance of studying, taking time out for fun and refreshment and making sure they are getting enough rest. There comes a point when young people can ‘over study’, where they revise so much that it starts to have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. We need to help some of our young people be aware of this. They are given study leave from school so that they have enough time in the day to revise for their exams. This should mean that they don’t need to be studying in the evenings. Instead they should be have some time out, having some fun and resting. Getting a good night’s sleep is also essential.
We need to ask them how they are doing with this life balance and gently challenging them if we feel they are off balance.
Exams are a difficult time for many young people. We need to make sure that we are making our youth groups as welcoming, encouraging and Spirit-filled as we can so that each person will have a desire to come and be recharged, both socially and spiritually, each week.
As youth leaders let’s stand alongside our young people and walk with them, and Jesus, as they travel this life experience.