The Secret Ingredient for Keeping Students Connected to Christ.

Post a Comment » Written on September 20th, 2010     
Filed under: Reflection
by: Ben Kerns, Youth Pastor – California

The million dollar question seems to be something like, “How do we keep students committed to Jesus into adulthood?” This is one of the main questions I have been wrestling with during my tenure as a youth pastor. And depending on the season, I end up somewhere swinging between it all being on Jesus or all being on me. It is true that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith and as shepherds we are called by God to build up or students in their faith. And at the end of the day, it is both. I plant, you water, I plant, you water, and God causes there to be growth and life. This is a mysterious partnership.In this mysterious partnership there are always better techniques and practices to improve our planting and watering. And if we take a step back, I think we will see that the solution is right there in front of us and has been all along. That missing ingredient to make the soil fertile and usable might be there all along. We try all these ways to make the gospel more appealing, to make the good news seem better. And in the process we distance ourselves from the church. The church is old, bureaucratic, institutionalized, boring, irrelevant. And while that might win us points in the short term, by making us seem hip, flexible, and relevant. This attitude decimates the chances of our students becoming adult followers of Christ.

If our time and energy is spent winning students to us or to our student ministry at the expense of the Church we really are cutting off the nose to spite the face. The church, warts and all, is where adult followers of Christ gather for worship, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry. Student ministry is temporary, college ministry is temporary, Big Church has to be the place we help students land if we want them to continue to know and love Jesus into adult hood.

One of the greatest quotes I have ever heard was from a random volunteer on a Mexico mission trip. He said, “Student ministry is a short term mission in a long term life.” And if you think about it, this is a revolutionary concept. Just like short-term missions, we are only around for a short period of time. And to be effective and a true blessings, we partner with those people who have been there and will continue to be there in the long term. We don’t show up as the end all to ministry, because we know we are there for only a short amount of time. Instead we work our butts off in that short amount of time and are a blessing to the community we are partnering with. Then we graciously hand them off to their long-term community.

Like you, I still have students who don’t do any of the things I encourage them to do, show up here and there, and end up being amazing followers of Christ, and I still have students who are totally committed to everything we do as a student ministry and choose to walk away from Christ. But one of the transitions we have seen is that when students return from college, their gathering place is in Big Church, not outside the youth room. Big Church can not only be for adults, we must help our students develop that habit. I said at the beginning, the spiritual development of students is a mysterious balance between us planning and watering, and God causing growth. I do think we make God’s job harder if we cut the legs out from the church instead of helping students find their rightful place in the larger body of Christ. What an amazing gift we can give to our students when we give them the tools and the habits to develop their faith into adulthood within the adult worshiping community.

Published online: 4.28.2010

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