I have been overwhelmed with a question lately. Am I creating a group of spiritually growing disciples of Christ in our student ministry or am I creating a group of spiritually co-dependent teenagers who cannot function with me as a guide? I know that sounds self serving but things have happened lately that have caused me to wonder. I am burdened by students living a life of duality. I ache when I realize that more of the students I have been entrusted with are living one way with me and another way all other times. Even times when they are with other Christian students in our group.
I am sure I am not the only Youth Pastor who struggles in this area. There are some students who get it and run with their faith and grow. I am blessed by those kids. There are some who never even pretend to embrace the faith. I can respect that. Then there are students who seem to not be able to make it on their own. Some of them talk a good talk but they are fully dependent on others to hold their hands in their faith. They can play the game when they are at church but the reality of their lack of depth plays out everywhere else. These students are the ones who are jealous of your time with your family. They are the students who do not speak redemptively when they are not with the Youth Pastor. They are the students who are jealous of past youth groups when you speak of them. They are the ones who lie, curse and compromise and everyone but the Youth Pastor is privy to this knowledge about their duality.
Don't get me wrong. I understand my place in the life of students. I am supposed to be there to cheer them on and point them to Christ. My fear is what if I am pointing them more to me than to Him? There is nothing I consciously do that brings this on and it is a small number of the students I have encountered in ministry. Still, I struggle with how to keep this from happening. I want to see students live lives of genuine commitment based on their passion and love for Jesus. I want to be raising a generation that own their faith. I want them to be able to survive on their own. I don't want them to be dependent on anyone else for their faith.
Tonight I had dinner with a former student that I haven't seen in five years. She holds a special place in my heart. At that dinner was a student who I still have frequent contact with but who I haven't had "official" spiritual authority over in those five years either. I know she loves the Lord and is living for Him independent of me. That is my goal. I pray that the students in my current ministry will see through me to the Father and will begin to live a faith that is their own. Many already do, I pray for those who don't.
I can sit here and readily think of so many students in our group that get it. I think of the student who first set these thoughts in motion in my mind when he came to me burdened for his friends in our group. I think of the confident young lady who hasn't been around as much as I would like but even without our programs and meetings, has maintained a strong walk with the Lord despite a hectic schedule. I think about the girl who is always eager to thank God in a genuine way for what He is doing in her life. She is always quick to give Him credit. I think of the young lady who has a soft spirit but is committed firmly to her faith and asks for my advice when telling her friends about Christ. She comes to me in the midst of sharing her faith not before for encouragement to do so. These students remind me that many are taking their faith out on their own. Still, those who aren't can be discouraging for me.
I am searching for the best way to keep this from happening. I am struggling with how to point these few students who live in this co-dependent spiritual world toward a more intimate walk with the Lord. I want them to take their faith in their hearts and make it their own. Any suggestions?