Almost four months into 2017 and the reality sticks with me. Something has to change. The culture has changed. Technology is constantly moving, aggressively thrusting students to and fro at will. Do this. Be this. Watch this. Buy this.
In our community everyone plays sports and no one plays sports. If you play a sport there is never an off season. You fit in or you fit out. Everyone has truth and your truth is never right. And still we grind on – summer camp? Check. Mission trip? Check. Sunday gathering? Check and check. But what if – what if something needs to change.
Not that! Don’t touch that! We hate change and if this one thing – our way of “church” – can make us feel comfortable – then we don’t want to touch it. But its not 1999. Its not even 2008. Its 2017 – and Sunday morning isn’t reaching the students of 2017. The student struggling to figure out truth when the world tells them your gender is fluid. Sunday morning isn’t meeting the kid whose parents leave him alone every weekend at just 14 years of age. Wednesday night corn hole tournaments aren’t reaching the Vegan girls starving themselves to get the best time at their next track meet. Wednesday nights are meeting the ________________ – you fill in the blank.
We cater to our students, maybe not even realizing we or their parents are wanting them to have a safe Jesus experience. Jesus isn’t safe. In the words of C.S. Lewis from my beloved childhood classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Following Jesus isn’t about the safety of our families or our ministries. We shouldn’t try and have safe student ministries.
If the goal of our student ministry is a job to feed our family, we end up providing safe programs where we talk about Jesus to a bunch of kids who grew up hearing about Jesus. And this this is what it means to be in Student Ministry – then I quit.
But if the goal of student ministry is following the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28) (in our context – every student in 6th-12th grade at every high school, middle school, intermediate school in every block, apartment building, sports team, youth theater, etc.) then I’m here to stay. But following Jesus means entering into the mess. Maybe losing your job. But as a servant not of my congregation but of the Lord – I’m willing to risk it for the sake of the Gospel.
The reality is today has changed – it is not the same day and age as when I grew up, as when parents grew up, as when your senior pastor grew up, or when your church’s elders grew up. Students have access to everything and anything at the touch of a finger – our culture has over-entertained and over-exposed so a “come and see” or “come and do” Student Ministry just doesn’t cut it.
“Look at our new coffee bar” doesn’t fit when there are 15 new coffee shops down the road. We’ve been a part of a church culture that built bigger buildings that, whether we like or not, come with pre-defined definitions to the world around us.
So how do we re-think this? How do we redeem the Student Gathering so that a student in process – who may still be on the road to Damascus, not yet having met Jesus – in the midst of struggling with an addiction to porn, identifying not with Jesus but as transgender, stuck in their pride at self-obtained theological knowledge – how do we change our spaces to proclaim the never-changing truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How do we become good news to all people rather than good news to the few who walk through our doors?
My prayer is this would begin an honest conversation – because this generation is dying alone, alienated from their Creator whom they do not know.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? – Romans 10:14