If you have been around student ministry long enough, you have heard negative remarks towards a ministry that focuses on teenagers. Yes, I am aware of the rocking 80′s and 90′s model where the focus fell on how many we could bring in, squirt with paint, and then send home with very little focus on the Gospel and seeing it really take root in their lives. Many student ministries are blamed(and guilty) of not doing all they can to see families involved in the lives of their kids and a youth group taking the place of discipleship which should be going on in the home. There are some also guilty of offering no opportunities of fun and fellowship among the students and their families which leads to a greater understanding of Biblical community and Worship of God through many aspects of life.
All of these are real issues. I have been guilty of all of the above. I have never been brave enough to throw paint inside the church buildin’, but I have been guilty of placing my focus on areas that really aren’t that important when my focus could be on more of the important things.
I have reminded my students that they are expected to learn, study and apply many difficult things in school and that when they come to church and as they live their lives through studying God’s Word on their own, they should expect nothing less than that: to be challenged. Remember that being challenged is not all about theological jargon or deep Biblical study. Biblical truths are taught and new words are introduced to our 9-12th graders, but if I want to give you a real peek inside what we do, we challenge our students in the areas of accountability, confession and repentance. To many of our students who have grown up in environments that encourage them to make everything look good on the outside and not be truly known, this concept of confessing sin and accountability is brand new… but it’s the Gospel. It’s good news that I don’t have to have everything put together to worship Christ. It’s good news that because of what Christ did on the cross, my identity isn’t found or discovered in how I perform or behave. It has been a year-long message for us: that freedom is found when we are confident in Him and the way we do that is finding someone close to us to share the dark areas of our life. It’s easy for us to know what the word says, but the challenge is applying it.
Here is what is written about Jesus as a teenager, following his time in the temple: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”(Luke 2:52 ESV)
This is not a verse created for youth pastors. It’s not one that makes a case for youth groups but so much more importantly is a verse that is applicable to every area and age of our life. We are to constantly be growing in Christ and honoring Him with our actions so that they may point to Him and bring Him Glory. The solution is not to find a better plan for student ministry, but to find a Biblical model for students’ spiritual development.
We do remind parents of our secondary role in the lives of their students, while their’s should be primary in discipleship. But frankly, there are many homes that either don’t understand this, or simply don’t have the resources for it.
I hope you have fun with your students. I hope you are crazy funny and can relate with your students well. I hope you take every opportunity to connect with students on their turf. I pray you will model God’s command of having people in your life to confess in to so that your students will rid themselves of one of the greatest lies society has to offer in that our worth is wrapped in what others think of us. I am thankful for the youth group I grew up in and I believe God sovereignly used it to impact my life in many ways, including fostering the desire to enter the ministry. Provide your students with opportunities to grow, both in wisdom and stature. Wisdom: in the study of God’s Word and teaching them to apply their lives to what it says; learning from mistakes; finding rest in Him and confessing sin one to another. Stature: giving them opportunities to serve one another, the community, their families; helping them build a positive reputation and lifestyle and confessing sin one to another.
May we be focused on the right things.