In my last post, I wrote about establishing the value of belonging within your student ministry. Not only should this happen within the youth room, but within every aspect of your ministry to students – small groups, outreaches, service trips, and even having fun at amusement parks. Much like “Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry,” establishing the value of belonging isn’t an “add-on” to enhance ministry. Instead, Belonging is a DNA essential which your ministry is built from.
A Beeline to Belonging
In his book, “Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry,” Rick Lawrence equips youth workers in building a ministry (events, messages, studies, etc) that continually makes a “beeline to Jesus.” His conviction is based from Spurgeon’s inspiring words to a fellow preacher, and by the life of Jesus Himself. And Rick is 120% correct in calling youth workers to build such ministries. In fact, a ministry not saturated in Christ-likeness and message isn’t really ministry; it’s merely an over-priced program.
Similar to Rick, I have a convictional plea: youth workers, at all cost, make a beeline to belonging in every message and conversation you have with students. Increasingly, these questions are being asked and sought after by teenagers and young adults, “Who am I? And what purpose does my life serve?” Every youth worker holds the answer to these questions, and I firmly believe every youth worker has been charged to help students discover these answers, which are found in the Person of Jesus.
Jesus on Belonging
Before Jesus started His ministry, God the Father felt it was necessary to affirm His Son. Now, He could have done this privately or in some other way, but God chose to affirm Jesus publicly and upfront. In Matthew 3:17, we read, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus had not done any ministry at this point. Yet God was well pleased with Him. I believe God was making a bold statement that Jesus would later speak over His disciples: position trumps performance. In John 15:9, during the last supper, Jesus tells the disciples, “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.” The same love and affirmation God spoke over Jesus, He is now speaking over His followers. Their position trumps their performance. Jesus speaks these words knowing that all His disciples would soon abandon Him at a grave hour of need. Jesus said this knowing that Peter, a trusted friend, would publicly deny Him three times. Jesus said this before any church is planted and any person is converted to Christianity.
“The same love the Father has for Me, I have for you,” Jesus says to everyone who bears His name. “Abide in My love.” Never leave it, never doubt it, and never confuse it with something less. Not only are we to believe this in our own relationship with Jesus, but we are to help students embrace this truth on a daily basis.
Key Verses on Belonging
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
These passages were written by apostles who understood the love of God and the purpose of their life. They were apostles who were rebuked by Jesus, who denied Jesus, who murdered people ‘for God,’ and yet were used by Jesus in powerful ways that changed the course of history. Your students, and you and I, are not beyond their faults nor the love God poured over them.
May we continually make a beeline to belonging in every message and conversation we have with students.
Thanks for loving students like Jesus.