Today I’m giving my second big church message, this time about the church and how it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. At first I saw this message as a big challenge, because how can you talk about church in 20 minutes? I think the first step to make is to address the fact that many of us have a hard time embracing the church and that can be for a number of reasons. Some of us struggle because of a relationship, some of us struggle because we feel it’s irrelevant, others because we’ve been jaded by the corruption or flaws exposed over the centuries. But then again it’s easy to bash the church when we’ve been raised with the mindset that it’s for us and not for God. On top of meaning an assembly of people church means belonging to God.
In student ministry we play with fire when we create a culture where it’s about students and not God. That happens when we:
- Pleasing the Insiders – Every student ministry should have a student leadership that advises, leads and contributes in one way or another. Unfortunately, it can be easy for us to forget who we are trying to please. Sometimes our leaders can get power hungry, this is sometimes facilitated by the personality of the student; however, there are occasions when it’s not. If we don’t challenge them, then we slowly turn our leaders into consumers. That in turn will slowly close the doors of your student ministry to the unchurched and nonbelievers. We want them to be excited about serving the Lord, but that doesn’t always equate comfort.
- Attract Without Retaining – I know a lot of youth ministers who spend the majority of their time planning events that will attract 100’s of students. I admit I get jealous when I see the numbers, and sometimes I get suspicious as to whether or not these events are for show or for bringing students into a strong church family. I think evangelization events are important; however, if you don’t have a consistent, challenging environment to follow up your outreach then you create a culture of consumers and turning them into contributors is tough. Stand alone events give students the impression that we are here to fill their social calendar.
As student ministers we are responsible for challenging our student leaders and setting up new students for success. I think it’s important to be relevant in the community, to show that we are true to our faith and that we are all united in Christ.
What warning signs do you see in a youth ministry that is “me” focused and not “He” focused?