Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sacrificing Too Much?

Jasper Speaks:

One of the greatest challenges student ministries face is the over scheduling of families. It seems that those to whom we minister are living lives of greater complexity. There was a time where families made church the priority. That time is behind us. Whether it is a desire for their students to gain social status or to gain the possibility of a scholarship for college, parents have chosen to place other things at the center of their students lives. I served in student ministry for 23 years and one of the most frequent frustrations voiced is that sports (and band in some areas) takes priority over church life. I have heard many a Youth Pastor bemoan having to build his yearly schedule around the sporting events of his students.

We are living in a world where student ministry is being declare a failing enterprise when you look at the retention rate for students in college. I have long said that this problem is much larger than the student ministry. I think that the overall atmosphere of the congregation plays a part but I know that the largest influence in a student's life is still his or her parents. The importance a parent puts on their relationship with Christ and the need to fellowship with other Christians plays a large part in this problem. When parents choose sports and other activities as the driving force of their family life, the church suffers and I believe so does the spiritual health of the student.

I found this article that I think presents some pretty good arguments to support the role of other activities in the downfall of students post high school. I hope you leave your comments to tell me what you think of these assertions.

Sacrificing for Sports

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stick It Out In Student Ministry

Jasper Speaks:

Some people believe that student ministry is endless fun and games. You get to plan exciting events, go laser tagging, travel the country and the world and stay up late in rooms full of laughter. All that may be true but anyone who has dedicated their heart and soul to pouring into the lives of students knows it is much more than that. Student ministry is messy. Students have real problems. It can be taxing just keeping up with the latest issues that students are facing. There are days, weeks and even months that most student ministry professionals feel like they are in the wrong line of work. I say, that is a good thing.

When you feel in a rut and inadequate, that is just the time when you can let God use you the most. When you feel down and out, remember that you can give up but you have to give up to Christ to do the work for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 sounds like it echoes from the very soul of a student minister:

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

There are certainly days when student ministry seems full of insults, catastrophes, persecutions and pressures. There are students calling with deep hurt and sin; parents complaining that your ministry is not effective for their family; conflict with fellow staff members; and pressure from home. These are the days that you want to pack it up and become a greeter at Wal-Mart. Don't. Take the times of difficulty and let them be times of learning. Let them be times when you learn more about the issue that hurting student is facing. Let them be times when you learn what may actually be weaknesses you have in ministering to the families God has given you. Let them be times when you learn godly conflict resolution. Let them be times you learn how to better balance work and home.

Whatever you do --- DO NOT GIVE UP! The work you do in the lives of students is making an eternal impact. The enemy would love to see another warrior in the fight for this generation throw in the towel. Be strong. Glory in your weakness. God is not only using you to alter the future in the lives of students and the Kingdom, he is changing you. Our most difficult times are what God uses to make us better at what we do. They are the times that He uses to make us more like Him. We not only become better ministers, we become better Christians. Don't forget that in your work of helping others, God is at work in your life as well. When it seems like you can't take another day of the struggle, admit that you can't. Let Christ know that you need Him to work in and through you. Everyday admit that to Him. Focus on the long haul.

There is a Kingdom work that student ministers have the honor of accomplishing that cannot be overstated.  Press on. That annoying ninth grade boy can become the strong, godly leader in just a few years if you continue to love him, pray for him and invest in him. In a world where students are surrounded by the crushing weight of sin, you are a light of hope that there is something better. Be Jesus with skin on. Weakness is strength in the hands of Christ.