Today I spent 45 minutes with a high school sophomore. Last week it was two different seniors—an 8th grader and a student I am mentoring. Each of these conversations produced a variety of topics but each one was ended with a “thanks for meeting with me” or “thanks for making time for this conversation.”
Student ministry has a misconception in that “everyone belongs.” We really want everyone to fit in, we want each student to have a voice, we desire each student to feel a part of the community, and all of this often gets really complicated because each student is drastically different. When you sit knee to knee with a student you get to know them and they can be given a sense they do belong.
I sat with a student last week whose family just started coming to church, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER about 5 months ago. This student is asking the basic question, “We’ve not had church for the last 16 years of my life—why now?” This student feels out of place in a small group setting when another students talk about Bible stories. This student looks at people raising their hands during a song of praise and wonders what that is about. This student has NEVER read the Christmas story out of Luke 2, till he was asked to read it two weeks ago in a small group.
By certain standards this student doesn’t seem to “fit in” to our student ministry. He doesn’t know the biblical stories, the lingo, or what is or isn’t a part of church. He has a lot of questions and is skeptical of the “whole church thing” (as he put it). So why has he not missed a small group meeting or a large group event in the past 5 months?
Because he’s been accepted.
There have been several students along with myself who’ve come along side this student and communicated that he’s accepted. The skeptical questions are accepted. The cynical remarks about church are acceptable. Our desire has been to help this student feel a part of the community by accepting him and giving him time. We trust that the Holy Spirit will move in divine ways in this student’s life; all we need to do is care for him as we would any other student who walks through the doors of our student ministry.
Creating space in my schedule to meet one on one with as many students as possible allows me to know the community I teach in our large group gatherings, how to structure small groups, know how to pray for students, and hear first hand what trend issues our students are facing.
I’ve watched the physical demeanor of students change, their participation grow, and their openness to God’s moving in their life as they feel accepted that they belong to a student ministry. Most often students feel like they belong when they feel people make time for them to listen to their lives.
I love making time to meet one on one with students. I love hearing their stories of life. I love seeing how God could use our ministry to minister to them. I hope this New Year your one-on-one time with students is full of ministry fruit!