Can I admit something to you? I struggle with fellowship in student ministry. Don’t get me wrong; fellowship takes place at almost every event and gathering. But I struggle with fellowship when it’s just fellowship for the sake of fellowship. I know this sounds crazy, because most people outside of student ministry just assume that “hanging out” is ALL we do. So perhaps my frustration with fellowship has less to do with the true nature of fellowship and more to do with the perception of fellowship in student ministry. Perhaps, the problem is the way I define fellowship. Let’s explore…
If you were to ask a random adult or student to define fellowship, they would most likely gravitate toward the concept of “hanging out” or “spending time together.” And while this is one element of fellowship, it sells fellowship far short. And because I hate the idea that people think my job is to simply “hang out” with students, I place a greater weight on the concept of discipleship within student ministry. I’d much rather talk about discipleship within student ministry than talk about fellowship; but one is often dependent upon the other.Focused and consistent discipleship is near impossible where fellowship is not a priority. Click To Tweet
So what is fellowship?
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
In this passage, fellowship seems to encompass the breaking of bread and prayers. Eating food together, praying, and listening to teaching had a profound effect on their community. The camaraderie that came from unity in Christ led to many signs and wonders as well as the growth of their community. God added to their number day by day. The love and acceptance experienced by all provided the platform for the Spirit to move.
So what does this look like in student ministry? How does our fellowship provide the platform for worship and discipleship to take place?
I would argue that it begins with food and shared community.
During the holidays, I choose to remember the power and definition of fellowship. We had a Thanksgiving Potluck for the purpose of food and shared community, and will have a Christmas party for the same purpose. I say, “shared” community because the church has a tendency to close in on itself and get inward focused rather than being outward focused.
We want to share our community and food…not hoard it.
We want outsiders drawn in and those inside drawn toward one another. We want our students to have “all things in common,” even if only for a night where they rally around food and throwing a frozen turkey. (So fun!)
We want a fellowship that grows day by day, and the opportunity for God to change hearts through worship and teaching.
Fellowship is powerful. As youth workers, we must be intentional in the way we structure our fellowship and more importantly, the way we communicate the purpose of fellowship to our adult leaders and volunteers.
What kind of fellowship events are you doing this Thanksgiving/Christmas season? Comment below!
David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava, Ben & Madelyn, Student Pastor at The Fellowship in Round Rock, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.