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.
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.