A number of months ago one of our students was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to church with friends. This young man had a strong faith and had a passion for serving and missions trips. His funeral was obviously a very gut wrenching occassion, but in many ways a time to celebrate his faith, life, and his eternal destination. At the lunch after the funeral, a parent asked me this pertinent question:
When all is said and done, where do you hope to see students by the end of high school? What are your priorities for them?
It’s a question that I somewhat answered at the time, but is a question I have been working through ever since (and still am). The funeral of a sixteen year old student and this question from a parent gave me a new perspective on what I do. In some ways, it gave me a new lens to look through in what I do… It has caused me to struggle through the question:
What matters most in my ministry” What priorities are truly going to help students grow and “finish well”?
Or, maybe, frame it this way:
What is most important today that will impact students in the long-term?
Before I jump into what my priorities are, I must remind myself that I am here to partner with parents, not replace them. They are with their kids much more than I. The more I can come alongside parents in their primary ministry, the greater the impact on their students. It’s easy to place all the burden and focus on our student ministries, when in fact God intends parents to be the primary disciples makers of their kids. However, as I partner with parents and provide the best environments for students to grow, he is my “work in progress” list of priorities I have for students:
- SELF FEEDERS: Students are equipped to “self-feed” their faith with personal Bible study, prayer, and accountability. I want them to own their faith and have a personal deep faith with their Savior. It simply is not enough to spoon feed our kids and hope they will survive without owning their own faith through daily habits.
- COMMUNITY: Where students are connected and learn the importance of staying connected as they grow into adulthood. The more they learn and experience healthy community while at church, the more likely they will search and discover authentic community once they graduate.
- SERVING & OUTREACH: Students discover their gifts and the fulfilment of serving in church, their communities and on their campuses. If they serve in our ministries and church ministries they further more reason to stay connected to the body once they graduate high school.
- OWNERSHIP: Students feel they are integral to what is happening on a weekly basis. It’s not a finely oiled adult led student ministry, but an authentic student led ministry where students can be involved and lead what God is doing, (no matter how messy things might get).
- LEADERSHIP: A place where younger students are served and invested in by older ones. So often, I see older students acting with an “entitlement” mentality towards the younger ones. I firmly believe it’s imperative to create a culture of older students serving younger ones. It is my hope that these students will develop into adults who are here to serve the others, not consume as we see so often in our churches.
- A DEEP FAITH THAT REACHES OUT: A ministry that is deep and wide where students have depth of love for their savior and the heart and the tools for reaching the lost.
- FAITH & REASON: Students are challenged to have a grounding in faith and reason for God’s existence. One day they will enter college campuses where they will be challenged with various arguements. It’s imperative that we help students understand science and fact that points towards our God.
- ME TO WE: Adult leaders (and students) need to know how to accomplish ministry goals even when I am not there. My goal is to invest, equip, and empower leaders in such as way that they might be tempted to ask the question, “So, what does Phil actually do around here”. I firmly believe that my ministry is more effective and God honoring when it is not focused on me. Too many of us enjoy being the “rock stars” of ministry, but we can easily overshadow Jesus and stifle others ministry opportunities.
- BELONG TO THE CHURCH: Here’s one that Tim Brown added to the list, (see the comments). “I’ve also seen for those students who are in the area after HS, that sadly they don’t feel that they “belong” to the church the attended during youth group. Though we are a more traditional/blended worship (i.e. Not contemporary or emergent) I believe the fault is that one of our goals was that we didnt aim to incorporate th into the body of adult believers. We let youth group and “church” run parallel, but not connected. Maybe that’s unique in my church because it’s large, but I would add that to the list”.
Well, there’s my “work in progress” list for now… I am adding and tweaking these ideas and goals as I go. I would love to get feedback from you too!