Me and the Vstudents got home from Washington DC today. It was an incredible trip! I’m pretty tired and little nervous to write hoping that I’ll be able to put together sentences that make sense but I also want to make sure that I express to you why I am convinced the current crop of students are poised to make a great impact on our world.
In my opinion, there is no darker time in the American culture than there is today. As a student minister, I am constantly battling the present darkness as I try to help students realize their potential in Christ. It’s pretty much a guarantee that any time we experience a powerful night of truth and worship, the rest of my week will be a struggle to lose my hope and confidence to minister to young people.
As we made our way to DC, I could sense that there were going to be several different obstacles that we would have to work through in order to make the week run smoothly. On the bus, I found myself asking God to bind our students and adults together because I knew that we would be working in areas that would challenge our students physically, mentally, and spiritually. We walked almost 15 miles every day! I asked God to keep us healthy, full of energy, and for us to make good decisions as we walked through busy areas. Our main task for the week was to hang 10,000 door hangers for Pastor Zack and Waterfront Church. As I looked at the areas we were going to cover, I knew that this task would seem overwhelming. I asked God to give us a fire in our bellies to do whatever needed to be done in order to accomplish this goal. Spiritually, we were tasked every day to treat each other with the Fruits of the Spirit. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) This is hard to do with 55 people including several 6th graders! There were many small logistics that we had to work through but my attention was drawn to really just one major issue.
I knew that our plan to 1. Help people know that Waterfront Church exists and 2. Help people know about Jesus was not something that would be welcomed by people or the enemy. This mission trip was simple and yet challenging. We did not go to build a house, feed people, or do any kind of social work. We went to blanket as much of Washington DC with information about how to connect with a local church. Some people would think that this is silly and does not really draw a return for people to see why they are getting their hands dirty. In most cases, we have no idea how effective our work was. All we know is that we did exactly what God wanted us to do. As we set out to make a difference in our nations capital, I observed our students and came to several resolutions as to why I believe in this current generation of students.
1. Students respond when you give them something tangible.
Students don’t need hypotheticals. Tell them what needs to be done. Give them a true goal. If you are motivated as a leader to see something happen, help the student see your passion for what you are doing so that they can feel it too. Don’t give them a task that you think they can do easily. Make it hard! Back in the early 1900’s D L Moody, said, “If you really want to get ahold of a young man, give him something hard to do.” It was D L Moody and many others that started the great Student Volunteer Movement.
If you as a leader will work diligently to make clear what needs to be done, more often than not, you will see your student respond. It has to be clear though. Don’t just assume they will follow you because you told them to. Show them the timeline and what the end result goal is and you will quickly see that you can motivate your student to go much further beyond what they think they are capable of.
2. Students don’t need your message to be sugar-coated.
When you have been a consistent leader in the life of your student, you will gain the opportunity to correct them in their actions and deeds. Over the last few years, I have noticed that young people can sense very easily when a leader cares about them enough to tell them the truth. They won’t respond to someone who doesn’t value them, but they will give you their ear if they know that you are there for them.
During our trip, our students had an off day. By off day, I mean that they were not acting up to their potential. There were many variables at play like lack of sleep, lots of walking, and several emotions that were completely out of whack. (Being a junior high student can be hard!) As the day wore on and on, I could not help but feel disappointed that our students were not working to the best of their ability or treating one another with love and respect.
As the leader, I knew that there was a problem. Many of our leaders may not have seen or noticed, but I could not allow our students to go a second further without correcting them. So as the bus pulled out to go to our sleeping quarters for the night, I told our students that we were going to have a talk that night and that they needed to be quiet on the 15 minute bus ride. As we sat in silence, I found myself second guessing my decision to correct my students. I was afraid that they would not understand what I was trying to tell them.
As we sat down that evening, I told the students that I felt like they had not seen their potential for the day and had not been very loving to one another. I pointed them to Psalm 19:14 and read, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you my Lord and my Rock.” I told them we did not have to be best friends but we were definitely going to be a family. As I talked further, I noticed that our students leaned in to hear me as I corrected them. Instead of getting upset at me, their eyes got sharper and I could tell instantly that what I was saying mattered to them.
I was so proud of them. I knew that they had reached a level of maturity that could only come from God. As we prayed that night, i could sense the power of the Holy Spirit and knew that something was different. The next day, I watched as students that had not seemed friendly to one another before were making an extra effort to treat each other better and that new friendships were beginning to brew. Students respond to our messages when we don’t sugar coat them. They crave to be told the truth.
3. Students love to be a part of great movements.
We have a 7th grade boy named Joseph who worked his tail off this week. On Sunday, Pastor Zack gave out cards to promote Waterfronts Easter Sunday and events. Joseph was captivated by these cards. He took his bundle of 5 and gave them out to people within seconds. He desperately wants Waterfront to grow and have the ability to reach people. Throughout the week, I watched him tirelessly give out cards to people telling them to join Waterfront for Easter. When I asked him about why he felt so compelled to work so hard, he simply stated, “Because I’m a disciple.”
I had to step back and catch my breath when I heard this young man share his calling with me. Joseph knows that Jesus is leading the greatest movement that this world has ever seen and he is going to do everything he can to promote the cause of Christ with all of his heart. I have no doubt that God will use this young man for many other tasks because Joseph gets it. He’s a disciple and will do whatever God asks of him.
4. Students love adults that are willing to pour into them.
I watched 15 adults (many who teach Sunday School) pour into our students this week. All of them are different ages, perspectives, and attitudes. Our students welcomed them whole heartedly because we knew that in order to fulfill our mission, we had to be binded together. I’ve never seen an adult pushed away from a student ministry when their heart is in the right place.
We need as many adults possible that will teach our students to love God and follow Him. The key to winning the heart of a student is being a consistent leader that will stop at nothing until they have helped a student along in their way to know and love Jesus. in one week, I watched students latch on to adults that many of them did not know before. What a blessing.
So why do I believe in this current generation of students? Because they are moldable, bold, and willing to listen to the hard truth. If enough people will believe our students, we will begin to pray for our students to see their potential. We will teach them the truth so that they can have every possible tool to grow. We will realize that they won’t fly until we teach them how.
Students are ripe and ready to work. Will you join the effort? Below are ways you can make a difference.
1. Choose a student in your church and pray for them every single day.
2. Write letters to students in your church with words of encouragement and scriptures.
3. Commit to mentoring a student. Take them to get a coke once a month and ask them how you can help them in their daily life.
4. Be mindful that many students don’t have a mom and a dad at home. Find out how you can fill a fatherly or motherly void in the life of a student that needs it.
5. Find the youth pastor in your church and ask how you can volunteer in the youth ministry. This could mean teaching Sunday small groups, working special events, going to camp, helping with registration, follow-up, etc. Just find a way to jump in and get involved.
6. Be an encourager. Find out when students have sporting events, musicals, or any other event and let the student know that you support them.
Find out how you can help and jump in! It’s time to see our world change and I believe that it can happen if we will invest in young people.