It seems to me that there is a stigma attached to student ministry. That is, that if you wish to be successful you must avoid stirring the deep waters and just hang out in the shallows. You should play ridiculous games, dress like a hipster, and whatever else you decide to do…just don’t get too academic.
I hear the stigma and I hate that stigma for at least these three reasons.
1. The students I serve are intelligent.
I don’t know how your context looks. But the students that I serve in ministry are not dumb. Actually, they are quite the opposite. I often enjoy listening to students discuss what they are learning in school. You may be shocked, or maybe your not, to learn that the academic demands placed on students in today’s world is rigorous. Many of the students I serve are already, through some wonderful educational opportunities, taking collegiate level courses. They are learning about the political sciences, the biological sciences, and fairly advanced mathematics. They compose essays, read American literature, and some even study foreign languages. To assume that students can’t handle a theologically in-depth sermon is not only untrue, it’s an insult to their intelligence. If they can tell me about chemical compounds, algebraic expressions, and give me a scholarly interpretation to a Robert Frost poem then I am confident that they are capable of wading into the deep waters of God.
2. The students I serve are hungry.
I think the fear that drives the stigma for some is the belief that ‘Yes students are able to wrestle with the deep things of God, but they don’t really want to.‘ Certainly there have been sermons where I looked up and witnessed a few students sleeping, some texting, and others lost with their eyes glazed over. But in the midst of them I also see students taking notes, some nodding their heads in agreement, and some bearing eyes wrought with conviction. Do you know why that is? Because some of those students were hungry. They were hungry because they have struggles going on in their life that the world can’t solve. They have questions that the world can’t answer. They have a thirst that the world can’t quench. They desire to experience the deep things of God. Who am I to keep them in the shallows?
This past week I ventured into Hebrews 7. You might be familiar with it, and if so you understand that it is anything but simple. I just so happened to look up midway through the sermon and realized that some of the students who were napping last year were now taking notes, nodding their heads, and holding eyes wrought with conviction. No, we are not at 100% engagement by any means, but we are making progress.
3. The students I serve today are tomorrow’s leaders.
And not just leaders in the church. Sure, I perceive that there are some future pastoral leaders and foreign missionaries in our midst. But I also realize that some are future doctors, nurses, pharmacists, educators, lawyers, politicians, musicians, and multitudes of other influential roles. I hope that when they get to wherever it is that The Lord is leading them that they have a sound, doctrinal, theological framework to fall back on to. I hope that when they go off to secular universities and are challenged on their Christian convictions that they have an answer ready to give for the hope that is within them. I hope that when they lead the world for the next fifty years that God might bring another Great Awakening among humanity. I refuse to adhere to the stigma, because I am hoping that The Lord May cause a spark that flames into a blazing fire for His glory and His kingdom.
Oh, I have heard the stigma. I hate the stigma. I don’t subscribe to the stigma. Yes, we still play ridiculous games (But it never takes away from our time of worship through singing or preaching). Yes, I try to stay cool though I’m not always successful. And yes, I strive to pursue the deep things of God because I want to experience the deep things of God. And the funny thing is, I believe that the students I am honored to serve, do too.