The Disease Within Student Ministry: Part 2

In last weeks post (The Disease Within Student Ministry) I discussed an unnamed disease that has infected many of our ministries. The disease uses a subtle shift of our focus to infiltrate us, and now it’s symptoms have started to manifest at the expense of our students. Over the next few weeks we will place these symptoms under a microscope to observe their effects and discuss possible remedies.

Disease in Student Ministry Part 2

Symptom 1: The focus of raising-up and building student leaders

I listed this as the first symptom because it was the first one that God made me aware of in my own ministry. In Fusion Student Ministry, stewardship is one of the filters that we run every decision through. It is part of the ministry system that we developed to use as a guardrail against our own selfish ambitions. So, the day the Lord rocked me with the conviction that I had started to focus on building leaders and not disciples was equally surprising to me as it was heart breaking.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. –Romans 12:4-8

One of the problems in focusing on raising-up and building leaders is that we emphasize one gift over another. Remember the commission is to make fully functioning disciples of Jesus Christ who in turn go make other fully functioning disciples of Jesus Christ. A natural part of raising leaders is to lift them up as models within our ministries. This can cripple another student’s desire to pursue Jesus Christ by making them doubt their value within His Kingdom. It can lead other students to compare themselves to the student leader, which often times leads them to a place of feeling inferior.

The hand has a different function than the foot. The eye has a different function than the ear. The knee has a different function than the big toe. Yet, all parts are valued and appreciated. Yes, let’s continue to encourage the growth of leaders, but not at the expense of our other students that are gifted differently. We need to focus on Jesus Christ, His great works, His good will, and our identity as His disciples. Doing this will enable us to better encourage celebrating the diversity of Gods church and our individual roles within it as His beloved children.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. –Luke 22:24-26

Another problem is that we find ourselves building leaders of worldly principles instead of Kingdom principles. Students often associate leadership with perks, prestige, and greatness. These principles are what the world teaches us, and it takes the revelations of God and the sanctification of His Spirit to break that paradigm. Even so, we can sometimes forget to teach that Kingdom driven leadership is found in serving others with humility, compassion, and mercy. We must stop teaching that leadership is about publicly modeling ministry works and Bible knowledge. We have to get back to teaching about who God is and what it looks like to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

There is so much more to this symptom, I will not even go on to speak of the added stress that we often place on the student leader, or what happens when one of these students fall. Instead, I will remind you that the shift is subtle, and it comes from a place of the best intentions, but it can have retarding effects on our students desire to pursue Jesus Christ. May God bless and sanctify you all.

Ben Headshot

Ben Fawcett is a six year student ministry veteran, who is currently serving as the Associate Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Texas. He is currently enjoying typing this bio out in third person, and aspires to one day speak in only third person.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “The Disease Within Student Ministry: Part 2

  1. “We must stop teaching that leadership is about publicly modeling ministry works and Bible knowledge.”

    First and foremost, thank you for your honesty regarding this topic. That being said, you are definitely right and correct concerning the notion of “publicly modeling ministry works and Bible knowledge.” Last time I checked, that is what the Pharisees and Sadducees did. All about glorifying themselves and how “righteous” they are, instead of “serving others with humility, compassion, and mercy.” Moreover, of course, we sometimes forget the latter, and focus on those who are our “shining stars,” but the end of the day God does not give some extra “brownie-points” to those who are outwardly viewed as “godly.” If the Apostles of our glorious Lord in Jesus Christ can compare and call themselves as unworthy of God’s deeds and steadfast love, what more is that to us? I feel as though we, most of the time, forget the tremendous weight and significance that the saying “God is good” carries. The triune God of all creation who is holy, righteous, and just who is immutable and capable of doing whatever he pleases would enter his creation, sacrifice his only begotten son to a depraved sinner like me, while I am sinning, knowing that I wouldn’t match up to his infallible standards. There are no words, and proper grammar to express what our sovereign God did for us. He alone is worthy. Worthy of everything. Which is why our greatest commandment is to love God, and to love others through the sharing of his saving gospel because it is finished. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs[a]according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 NASB

    Blessings,

    Phil

    • Phil, love the “brownie points” stream of thought! How foolish to think that public leadership in the church carries any more weight than what happens behind the scenes and in the spiritual realm. I think of my grandmother selflessly and silently petitioning God for the transformation of lives. Is her role in the body any less important than those on stage? Oh to see the way God sees and value what God values!

  2. “A natural part of raising leaders is to lift them up as models within our ministries. This can cripple another student’s desire to pursue Jesus Christ by making them doubt their value within His Kingdom. It can lead other students to compare themselves to the student leader, which often times leads them to a place of feeling inferior.”

    It’s a little haunting to me, because of the truth of this statement. Your point of the subtleness of how this happens is ON POINT! It really does come from good intentions, and crazy how it actually flushes out in youth ministry (across the board really). It amplifies the insecurities of non-leaders and IT SHOWS from how they interact with others and maybe for some there unwillingness to volunteer because they “aren’t like that guy! He’s such a good leader!” ERRONIOUS! If this is what the majority of our kids are experiencing… WE HAVE MISSED IT! I wonder at what age level its most prominent… Youth probably, I would guess, because the ramped insecurities across that age group.

    I like the post a lot Ben. I think it something to be discussed. But few will come to the table and have an honest discussion… Unfortunately

    I still want to thank you for your willingness to to write these words and your faithfulness to follow Christ! Your insight is invaluable sir. Many people would read this and say that may be judgemental or maybe a little brash, BUT, my God says that, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53

    I think it’s ok to dish out a little hard truth, in love. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, not from the judgement of your words.

    Paul urges us to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
    2 Corinthians 13:5

    That’s all your doing with your words as long as they are true, biblical, and in love toward the body of Christ. Just as Paul is doing… I could probably copy and paste this comment on the rest of this blog series, but I will refrain!

    • (My whole comment didn’t make it I think. I ended it with saying…)

      There needs to be more frankness and clarity in the church. I earnestly petition the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and draw us closer to him. May we walk in your truth father and our eyes be opened to our sin and shortcomings. Direct our hands in all the we do. Bless my brother Ben…

      -Matt F.