The past two weeks, Leneita Fix and I have been trying to expose some of the big elephants within the youth room – all of our youth rooms.
One of the last ones I would like to highlight is the issue involving our students and our supposed ownership of them. Here are some scenarios:
A very active student in your ministry begins to attend another youth ministry on a different night, and eventually becomes active with them, too. A new student comes to your ministry from a different youth group and says they want to attend both places, especially since both ministries happen on a different night. Students who attend your church attend a different youth ministry during the week. In all three situations, how do you react?
I don’t know about you, but these situations are commonplace in the ministries I have been involved with, and I suspect they will continue being commonplace as long as I’m within ministry altogether – be it youth or adults.
I’m going to make a bold assumption here, but I think it’s one that is quite accurate of our ministry mindset: we all love to talk about being the body of Christ, however we seldom minister as one body of Christ.
Within my ministry, I give an unwritten allowance to students: they are free to attend any youth group in town, as long as they are growing in their relationship with Christ and others.
I have come to terms with the truth that not every student is going to find ministry under my direction beneficial. Some students I am just not able to connect with, either wanting more or less than what I offer. The reality is, I have to be OK with this, knowing that not every person Jesus ministered to followed Him, or even continued following Him (see John 6 as an example). Some people left Him, and some students are going to leave me.
On the other side of things, some students are going to truly seek Jesus because of the ministry I offer, and because of another churches ministry in town.
This is a reality I need to be OK with as well, not being caught up in making disciples of my denomination but of Jesus Christ. Now, I am not advocating “youth-group-hopping.” I believe students need to be connected to a place where they will learn how to grow and live in biblical truth. However, what I am advocating is that this may happen (and maybe needs to happen) within outlets other than our own ministries. Instead of sheep stealing, maybe we need to do more sheep sharing.
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure neither do you, but together we can better shape our students to impact the town (and world) in which they live. I believe the hidden fear we have is if our students attend someone else’s youth group, they might be taught something that contradicts our denominational theology, and thus they may believe heresy. However, this hidden fear exposes a deeper lie we believe: our church is right and their church is wrong, therefore our students can only correctly learn about Jesus from our church. One of the greatest things that divides the body of Christ, and stunts the work of Christ, is believing this lie as truth.
Are some churches too legalistic? Yes.
Are some churches too free-spirited? Yes.
Can both teach a person how to live out the ways of Christ? Yes.
Can we strive to correctly teach what God’s word says, and help bring understanding to skewed views? Yes, and we should.
However, when we tell our students, or even give them the impression, that our church is better than another church, we give life to what divides us and not to what joins us together.
Being the body of Christ, we must live and minister together as the body of Christ. This means that nothing belongs to us, for everything belongs to Christ for His use and glory. This includes our students. They are not yours, and they are not mine, but they are ours in Christ.
With you and for you,