More Than Just a Good "Church" Kid
I want to introduce you to a teenager I know.
He doesn’t drink alcohol.
He doesn’t do drugs.
He doesn’t have premarital sex.
He’s kind and respectful to adults.
He’s an excellent student with exceptional SAT scores.
And he wants to do something with his life that will make a difference in the world.
He’s also an atheist.
Before you learned that he was an atheist, how many of you thought, “This is the ideal Christian teenager”?
And therein is our problem. Jesus did not come to earth on a rescue mission to make bad people good. He came to give spiritually dead people His eternal-Kind-of-Life (Ephesians 2:4-5).
I propose that the church has some theological problems that produce ministry models which, in turn, create systemic problems that hinder our student’s faith. We need to create environments that produce more than just good ‘Church’ kids.
As my friend and renowned youth culture expert, Chap Clark, Ph.D. points out, “Previous studies indicate that 40 percent to 50 percent of all youth group graduates fail to stick with their faith or connect with a faith community after high school."
For your consideration, following are “3 Deep Shifts” propositions to incorporate into student ministry:
PROPOSITION 1: FROM JESUS AS LIFE COACH TO JESUS AS GOD AND KING
Life coach Jesus doesn’t inspire students to live a life worthy of their calling. Life Coach Jesus is not worshiped, He’s used/consulted. He’s a ‘how to’ app that has no real power.
Take a moment and marinate on how the Apostle Paul describes King Jesus:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. -Colossians 1:15-20 NLT
King Jesus is a King worth following. Teach students a high and lofty view of Jesus.
PROPOSITION 2: FROM MORALIZING TO GOSPELIZING
Often we are so busy telling kids what they shouldn’t or can’t be or do, that we miss telling them in whose image they are created to be and to worship. When we worship Jesus in all of life, because we see Him for who He is and revel in His grace, we are transformed into His image and something more beautiful and life-giving than morality is realized; we live a Gospel-empowered life. And Gospel-empowered life produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 522-23).
When students are gospeled, they have more opportunity to live a life worthy of their calling.
PROPOSITION 3: FROM ISOLATION TO INCLUSION
It’s time to include students into the life of the local church. If we isolate them from connecting with the richness of all-church worship, serving and ministry, why are we shocked when they don’t connect to the local church in college? Students need to know that they matter to and make an impact on the life and wellness of the local church…that it’s is their church too.
At Transformation Church, teens (and some preteens) worship and serve on ministry teams with adults. Over 30 % of our servant-leaders (volunteers) are teens.
We also have three teenagers who are full-time staff! Do whatever you need to do to include students in the life of the local church.
Chap Clark says, “Rather than only attending their own Sunday School classes, worship services, small groups, and service activities, young people appear to benefit from intergenerational activities and venues that remove the walls (whether literal or metaphorical) separating the generations. Churches and families wanting to instill deep faith in youth should help them build a web of relationships with committed and caring adults, some of whom may serve as intentional mentors.”
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