There are 2 big truths about student ministry (or ministry in general for that matter) that I often forget. It isn’t that I mean to forget them, but in the hustle and bustle of the day. In the midst of all the planning and preparing and praying and studying and doing it is sometimes easier to focus on that stuff and sort of get lost in the doing and the actions and forget about what is really going on. So here are 2 big truths that I often forget. (This isn’t an exhaustive list btw)
1) What I am Teaching is a Matter of Life and Death
This whole Christian walk thing isn’t just trying to help them be better people. It isn’t just trying to shape them into their mom and dads ideal teenager. It isn’t to keep them from drinking or sleeping around. It isn’t even to teach them new truths about God just for the sake of teaching them new things. We are dealing not just with some nice ways to live, but with the secrets of life and the keys to kingdom of God. We are dealing with heaven and hell. We are dealing with waking up to who we were really created to be. We are not just “having a lesson.” We are not just “playing a game.” We are supposed to be engaging with God and any time we come in contact with God we come away changed.
I find myself to often forgetting this.
When I forget this I get interested in making a fun lesson that will keep people from being bored, and while that is good it isn’t good if that is my focus and teaching the word of God.
When I forget this I get excited about a lesson that “goes well” and don’t worry about whether or not students’ lives are actually being changed.
We are dealing with so much more than what they are teaching at school. We are dealing with so much more than their future as maybe someone who gets a scholarship or someone who has a career one day. We are dealing with eternity and I too often forget that.
2) It Isn’t My Responsibility to Change Lives. I Just Present Truth
When I start thinking about this whole “this is vitally important” thing I can get a little overwhelmed and worried and frankly a little afraid. So it is important for me to remember too that it isn’t about me or what I can do. It is about the power of the Word of God and the Word of God can speak for itself.
I believe that if I present the truths from scripture that God can use those truths to change lives.
I believe that, but I too often forget it and I start acting like I am the one who is doing the changing and I work too hard and get too worked up with in the end the real power is God’s and I am simply His servant.
After my disappointing lesson last week, during which no one seemed to want to answer even the simplest of questions I am still wrestling with how best to approach tomorrow night. A large part of me wants to just go back to large group sermon style teaching with an occasional game or group activity thrown in. I will feel good about myself and I can justify it by saying that I am speaking in a language that the students understand.
But that really isn’t the case. I can put on a good show, but that doesn’t mean that the students really interact with the text. I can preach and hold their attention, but that doesn’t mean that they are wrestling with the truths presented, or really seeing them as truths at all.
Part of my role as a minister to these students is to not only teach them the Bible, but also teach them how to interact with the stories and principles they find there. We live in a world of information, the “facts” are always available on devices that we carry around in our pockets. These students don’t need more facts, they need to know how to take these facts and chew on them and digest them into their lives.
Of course, part of the issue is that we have a very young group of students right now and that group of students really isn’t used to thinking about the Bible in anything other than concrete terms. So instead of getting frustrated with them because they can’t seem to engage in a discussion of the truth I am on a mission to try to teach them how to engage.
That means that instead of retreating back to what I feel is a safe, easy, feel good for me type of sermon-lesson I have to get back into what these students really need and that is a deep internal understanding of the truths of God. And while I know that they won’t achieve that while they are in my ministry (I don’t even think I have achieved that yet), I know that part of what I can do is give them the tools to begin ingesting the word of God.
Of course, I’m not exactly sure what that looks like. It is going to take some trial and error on my part, but I know I want to try.
This week my big focus is going to be just on getting people talking, whether it be about the Bible or anything else. Our group size is such that I should be able to do much of this in our large group setting. I am going to play a few games, work on a few case studies, and do some old improve type thinking exercises to try to get people at least used to looking for new truths. I am praying that this will at least get things started down the right path.
I know it has been a while since I have regularly updated this site, so I am very thankful that people still come and find help here. Nailscars.com was always designed to be a place where people (me especially) could speak honestly about the struggles that face Christians and ministers in particular. Last week I got this honest letter from a reader and with her permission wanted to share it here. Sometimes just hearing that someone else has similar thoughts and struggles is enough to help us through to the other side of them.
I have loved and followed God all of my life but in the recent years, like a plague or cancer, slowly my faith has deteriorated and at times seems lifeless. my heart is fixed on serving God, loving His people, bringing life into this dying world, but amongst all of that, somewhere along the way I lost my balance. Maybe its from trying to hold it ALL together. I truly don’t know. But what I do know is that my heart is aching for change. My heart is longing for His grace. My heart is aching to know Him like I once did when I was a teen. I was on fire. Nothing and NO ONE could tell me anything that would cause me to question my belief in Him. Each day it seems to suck the life right out of me. Trying to do the right thing, be the light, to help, to hold others up, but inside I am dying. Dying to feel Him again. There are times that I feel the peace that I KNOW that only He could provide, but those times are numbered. What happened to the girl that no one could shake? The girl that no one could change. Granted, I had my days of a painful past that still echoes through each day, but what happened to the childlike innocense of just talking with Him? I just miss Him. I just feel that I have lost His love for me somewhere along the way and nothing seems to resolve my issue or pain. To not understand Him is one thing, but to fear that He has gone or never was, just devistates me.
If you are in a similar position take heart. God has not forgotten you. The creator of the universe, the creator of you, knows you and loves you. More than that when He thinks about you (which according to David in Psalm 139 happens more times than there are grains of sand), when he thinks about you, He smiles. Remember that, hold fast to that, and let the rest take care of itself.
Last night at church was a night of blank stares. Not just a few blank stares, but lots and lots of blank stares and not just for hard questions like “how might this apply to your life” no, for direct, no thinking questions too. Here is a sample exchange:
Me: The foundations of discipleship are community and the scripture. What is one of the foundations of discipleship?
Them: (Blank Stares)
Crickets: chrrrp, chrrrp
That may be a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. We had something similar happen last week, so this week I added some video to the mix to try to help with the retention factor. But once again I was met with blank stares.
Now, I would like to blame it all on the students, but I know that isn’t the case. They aren’t the ones who are paid to teach. They aren’t the ones who are charged with the task of relating the truths of the Bible. That’s my job, so I am doing a serious rethink of what we are doing and why.
As I think about it, I don’t think that it is the material as much as it is the method. It is a method that requires something of them, and they are just not really used to that. My group has evolved beyond what I realized so now I need to find a way to bring them back to a place where they can share openly and engage in some real discussion. I am thinking that next week as much as teaching the Bible I am going to teach how to interact with the text and each other.
Hopefully I can find a way to do this that doesn’t just give us a whole bunch of new blank stares.