The other day I decided to go into Starbucks for a refreshing drink on a very hot day. I sat down in the shade outside to take a break from a busy day and catch up on some paperwork. This is when HE showed up. I had seen him one other time at this store, and admittedly I wasn’t sure about him. Covered in matted dirt and sweat, carrying a bunch of broken bags, it was obvious that his home is most likely on the streets. As he spent time carrying on a conversation with himself, it was also clear he probably suffers from mental illness. After getting a cup of cold water and lighting a cigarette what most would have expected was for this man to sit by himself. Many might have anticipated that he would begin panhandling. Instead, he stood at the door with his water and smoke and opened the door for everyone coming in and out of Starbucks. This went on for about 30 minutes until a policeman came, spoke with him and made the choice to end his “loitering.”
His name was Joshua, and he exemplified service in a way that made most uncomfortable.
What was more interesting were the group of five young professionals who sat behind me on the patio. After he left they had a long conversation about the homeless and how they felt about them. They pondered, “what made people that way,” and went on to discuss how some homeless people just “pretend to be homeless” to scam the system and digressing into a conversation about protecting yourself from credit card fraud.
Yet, the irony is that Joshua never asked for anything. Instead, as he opened the door, his conversation with his unseen friend would pause as he would smile and usher you in and out of the store. He never asked for anything in return, not even a thank you.
Often summer time is one where we push students to think about service. We take them on missions trips and create service opportunities. My encounter with Joshua and his onlookers reminded me that service can be used as a time of discipleship with your students.
How do you turn service into a discipleship opportunity??
Dig Before You Go
Our tendency can be to focus down on the logistics of our service and forget why we are truly doing what we are doing. These times can go far beyond, “helping the unfortunate.” Joshua opened the door, just because he wanted to serve. He saw a need and filled it. Help students ponder their hearts before, during and after their service opportunities. Take time to really dig in with your youth about what it means in their relationship with Christ to serve. How does what they are about to do bring them closer to Him?
Teach Them How Jesus Did Ministry
I had a teen tell me recently that real service on missions was only when you did physical labor. Jesus reached out to people in everyday interactions. He didn’t build walls or paint things. He met the “needy” where they were and then met their greatest point of need. It’s what He continues to do today. Sometimes he healed sickness, other times cast out demons, and all of the time got to the heart of the issue. Whatever, they are doing in any capacity is for Jesus and with Him. Show them what this looks like.
Is This Who You Are?
A service opportunity is awesome, but Joshua didn’t wake up today with a created program of opening doors. It’s easy for any of us to serve when there is an event or a trip, but what about in our everyday lives? Use events as a way to jolt students into thinking outside of themselves. Then as you disciple them, help them see when we love Christ and know the depth of His love for us, loving our neighbor becomes a natural part of who we are. It means we start seeing the world through a lens of seeing the least, the lost and the last…all the time
I haven’t seen Joshua again at Starbucks this week and I may never be able to tell him how he inspired me. There was an innocence in his approach that lacked all pretense. I am humbled. I saw how I get focused on serving for the sake of helping or getting teens beyond apathy. I have missed that this should be ingrained in who we are because it is the call of Christ. Teaching students to do the same is discipleship. Maybe it’s less about events, and more about pointing out who we are with the Lord in our day-to-day routines.
What are you doing to disciple your students in service and beyond?