After being involved in Student Ministry over 23 years, I can not help to think that we have missed the most basic of ministry tools that we have been given, which is the importance of the mission behind what we do. Mission really defines everything. There should be a mission or purpose behind everything that we do. There was a time I was so concerned about getting the numbers and if those numbers were big then I was somehow successful. I think we need to change the entire matrix we use to gauge success in ministry. We need to move from an Attractional Model of Ministry to a more Missional approach.
Student Ministry for years has been built around an Attractional Model of Ministry, which implies that we must have the best and biggest show in town to draw kids from across our city. The more kids we had coming the more successful we would feel. We felt that we had really accomplished something great if our events and programs were well received and well attended. I have to realize that anyone with minimal talent and ability can draw a crowd. Anyone can manipulate a students emotions and get them to do things within our ministry, and we will like we have developed student leaders when what we have really done is trained students to be good at putting on a show. We have not taught them the very skills that they will need once they graduate from our ministry. We have set them up for failure. We must change our approach. We must see our role as that of a missionary. We have been called not only to reach a generation but also a new culture. We must be willing to into the trenches and walk with our students, life on life, and help them navigate this very difficult stage in their lives. We must equip them with the tools they need to make it on their own. We need to help them grow relationally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We also need to help their parents navigate through a youth culture that is as foreign to them as the outback of Australia. The need help and a guide to help raise their children in a totally new world. We must tap into the overall mission of God and show our students what it really means for follow Christ in their world.
Missionaries are making amazing progress. Biblical faith is growing and spreading like never before in History. 1 out of every 10 people in the world is a dedicated believer. Although the gospel has spread rapidly, it has not been able jump across cultural barriers, which results in many being left isolated by the gospel. This is what is happening in Youth Culture as well. Most students do not see that the gospel is relevant to their lives. It is just what they hear about on Sunday. It is just one of many compartments that comprise the totally of their lives. We need to help our students develop tools to share the gospel with their culture. It is more likely that the gospel will be received by one of the indigenous believers (their peer) than by the influence of a foreigner (Youth Pastor). This is true in our churches today. Churches have become social cliques. We only reach out to those people who are like us. We need to train our members to share the gospel with the culture in which they live. A blue-collar worker will be more receptive to fellow worker than he would be to a Wall Street stockbroker.
The blessing that God gave Abraham of become a blessing to all nations begins with the message of salvation. The essential missionary task is to develop viable, indigenous church planting movement. That means churches must be growing on their own, led by local people, and continuing to reproduce intergenerational fellowships that will reach the entire people group. The world is broken into thirds. One-third claims to be Christian. One third is non-Christians living within reached peoples, and one third live within unreached people groups. We should still keep sharing the gospel everywhere we go. Just because a people have been reached with gospel not everyone will believe. We must not stop once they are no longer classified as unreached. The US is slowly becoming an unreached people group. Even with all the access we have to the gospel, there are still people who have never heard the good news of Christ. The Jr. High and High School in your area are probably the best place to start. Each school should probably be viewed as an unreached people group, and as such we need to be able to take the gospel and share it in a culturally relevant way that will “reach” those student who so desperately need the love of Christ.
In order for local churches and Student Ministries to be started and continue reproducing, the local people must become involved. The students need to be trained to do the ministry. We tend to only train a few workers, and soon they become frustrated and overworked. All members of the local church or Student Ministry should take part in sharing the gospel with the people to whom they belong. Local congregation must be given the tools to become equipped for kingdom work. If not they will become dependent upon the missionary (Pastor or Youth Pastor), and when he leaves the ministry will die.
In the New Testament, churches were spontaneously expanded. There was no great appeal by the apostles to coerce the local church to go start new congregations. The Great Commission was understood as a tenant of the Christian Faith. They just went and did it. Wherever the Apostles went, they started new churches. They were discipling new believers and then turning them loose to do God’s work. We often time think only “School-trained” people can do the work in a local church, but that is not the case. These new converts were uneducated men who yielded their lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We as a church need to return to this way of mission’s work. It worked back then and it will work now. Until we realize the power a local believer has in the church planting process, our world mission effort will become retarded and frustrated.