One of the things all Student Ministries deal with is constant change. Every year we graduate a class of seniors and inherit a new class of sixth (or seventh) graders. The reality is we lose some of our more mature disciples, while adding to the numbers of our more immature disciples.
So that would be addition by subtraction…. my bad, I meant subtraction by addition. This is the constant cycle of turnover that we face as student disciple makers, and as the cycle turns it brings a subtle shift to our focus. We position a new class of seniors to take the reins of student leadership, and seek to integrate a new group of sixth graders into our ministry.
In essence we focus on leadership development, and student congregation retention. That makes sense too, because we want the older student leaders to model a mature faith to the younger ones, while trying to make sure we retain all our newbies. After all, today’s newbies are tomorrow’s student leaders within our ministries. So we seek to establish a cycle of continuous leadership development and number retention/growth.
This subtle shift of focus can even occur within the most structured Student Ministry, but I think it is in this ever so subtle shift of focus that a disease has infiltrated us. This disease has distracted us from our mission of seeing God glorified and enjoyed in the lives of our students and youth workers. It’s a disease that consumes every facet of Student Ministries, which includes our volunteer youth workers, how/what we teach, the execution of our small groups, and most importantly our students understanding of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
I don’t have a name for this disease, but I know its symptoms. The symptoms are all concerned with how or what we focus on. Focus requires attention, applied energy, and an investment of time. What you focus on and how you focus on it will directly impact your students and volunteer youth workers, which in return will create your culture.
Here are some of the symptoms I have observed:
Symptom 1: The focus of raising-up and building student leaders
Do we want student leaders? Yes, we absolutely want them. Are we called to make leaders? No, we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ that operate out of their faith in who He is and His great works.
Symptom 2: The focus of retaining students
Do we want all of our students along with their family and friends to come to know, love, and worship the Lord God? Yes, we desperately desire that. So shouldn’t we focus on doing everything we can to make sure the students don’t just return but return with their friends? No, we should focus on making disciples that go into their peer groups to make disciples.
Symptom 3: The focus of developing behaviors
Do we want our students to behave in a manner that reflects their faith? Yes, behavior is important. Then shouldn’t we teach behavior based lessons? No, the basis of all our teachings should be God, His works, and our new found identity in Jesus Christ.
Symptom 4: The focus of placing students first
Wait, we are a student ministry aren’t we? Absolutely, we love our students and hope to see them saved and sanctified. Then we should place our students first in our ministries? Absolutely not, we are disciples of Jesus Christ, and therefore He always comes first.
Remember the shift is subtle, and it grows out the best of intentions, but it can have retarding effects on our students desire to pursue Jesus Christ. In the coming posts I will further discuss my observations of these symptoms, their effect on our ministries, the Word of God that my views flow from, and what I think we can do to overcome this disease.