Missional Student Ministry According to Jesus

UP-IN-OUT-logoRunning from event-to-event, weekend-to-weekend can be extremely draining! Many pastors and ministry leaders face burnout and exhaustion because of the lack of vision and direction. We live lives and carry on with ministry out of what ‘looks good’ instead of what God truly desires of us. What would it look like for you to do as Jesus did and talk as Jesus talked – to live your life as He lived and to lead your ministry as He led?

3DM focuses on the Up, In, and Out lifestyle of Jesus. In other words, He prioritized His relationship with the Father, focused on creating a culture of discipleship within those closest to Him, and carried out a life of outreach and mission beyond His social comfort zone. What would it look like for us to do this within the context of our ministries?

God has been challenging me over the past few weeks to truly abide in His presence. It is not that I was completely missing the mark of His calling, but there are definitely areas that need pruning. I need the Father’s direct sunlight, while allowing the shade and comfort of the Holy Spirit to infiltrate my entire life.

Our relationship with the Father places focus on the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ In other words, we are able to find true purpose and meaning to our lives when we abide in His love. When we experience authentic spiritual growth, fruit will appear that we did not even think was possible.

As we look up and answer God’s calling on our lives, we must not miss the community He has placed around us. Many of the students and young adults I work with want relationships, but they don’t want commitment and accountability. In other words, they want the fun, but not the challenge; they want the fruit, but they don’t want to experience the pruning process.

God puts specific people in our lives to hold us accountable. He also places a responsibility on our shoulders to establish a culture of discipleship within our families and ministries. Are you being used by God to see lives transformed within your sphere of influence? When it comes to the impact we can have, it is not always about the large numbers. Typically, we will have far greater impact on fewer people than on large crowds. We must start small as we dream big!

As we grow closer to the Father and create a discipling culture, we will not miss the opportunity to share Christ with the masses! We will focus on the lost, spend time developing a vision for outreach, and live as the hands and feet of Jesus. We will see people as Jesus sees them, instead of how our ignorant human flesh sees them. We will be quicker to forgive and slower to lash out in anger.

Our mission must begin with a growing relationship with the Father, where we truly find ourselves abiding in His presence. As we do this, a culture of discipleship will be created, and we will ultimately live out as His hands and feet to a broken world!

One of the things that I have been specifically wrestling with is how this lays out into the vision of student ministry. I am in the process of a major project – evaluating all aspects of student ministry directly from the perspective of missional living.

I have narrowed it down to three basic questions that I am hoping to lay out over the next few weeks and months in book form.

  1. What does it look like to authentically lead students into the presence of the Father?
  2. What must happen within the four walls of our ministry in order to create a successful culture of discipleship?
  3. How can we see a true revolution take place within our communities, schools, and homes?

I would love to hear any and all feedback in regards to how you see this happening, specifically in the context of Student Ministry!

Creating an Effective Missions Strategy for Student Ministry

Over the past few years I have spoken with students and young adults in regards to the effectiveness of missions.  What did they gain from their missions’ experience?  How have they grown spiritually?  In what ways were they impacted to show more compassion and humility on a daily basis?  The continual answer I have found breaks my heart.  Students and young adults are not getting a true missions experience, instead they are being sent on a glorified retreat that turns into a social hangout.

In my opinion today’s high school and college student does not need to be given another opportunity to hang out in a social club.  They need to face the facts of a lost and broken world.  They need to be hit with the truth of a hurting society that is in need of the love and compassion of Jesus.  One student who recently visited the country of Bolivia said it was simply a retreat.  We are organizing trips to build earthly relationships instead of focusing on growing the Kingdom of God.

So… what do we do?  Where do we go from here?  How do we impact today’s teenagers and young adults through a mission’s experience?  I believe first and foremost we must create a desire for missions in our own backyard.  Many of our students miss the needs staring them in the face.  They do not realize that they are coming in contact with homeless, widows, and orphaned children on a daily basis.

A couple of years ago I held a localized missions week for our students, where we set aside an intensive time of missions training.  We brought in several guest speakers involved in compassion and outreach ministries within our local area.  We also organized several groups of students each day that went out into the community and were involved in hands on missions work.  We connected with the homeless, the orphaned children, the elderly, at risk youth, and the widows.  Each student had their eyes opened to the need for missions and compassion ministries right in their own backyard.  It created an awareness and passion to carry out the love of Christ to the hurting around us.  We must constantly create this awareness through local missions trips, volunteer service, and student outreach teams.

As youth leaders, we must also show the importance of organized missions trips, with the emphasis on ‘organized.’  It is so easy to pack up our suitcases, load on the plane, and travel to a third world country.  I fear too often this is being done, and we are forgetting the importance and significance of the mission God has called us to.  We want to show our students a third world country to make them feel bad and completely humble themselves.  Instead of making my students feel bad, I would rather create urgency in them to act based upon how God has blessed them.  As the American church, God has blessed us with the capability to reach out to a hurting world in a gigantic way.  I desire to cause my students to feel blessed by what God has given them, and in turn feel privileged to share it with the entire world.

Missions’ trips must also be more than a time of social hangout.  It comes down to organization and intentionality.  What are you doing to create spiritual growth in each individual and in the entire group as a whole?  How are you impacting those around you for the cause of Christ?  Is your debrief time serious or just another time to laugh and goof around?  I am not downplaying the importance of down time and relaxation during a mission’s trip, instead I am pointing out the significance of spiritual growth and spiritual impact while on trip.

Whether it is Africa, Haiti, or our own backyard, we must not lose sight of sharing Christ’s love and the Gospel with those we come in contact with.  Organizing effective missions trips and experiences is key to creating a heart of compassion within our students and young adults.

I would love to hear what you are doing to create an effective missions strategy, specifically within the context of student ministry.

Upcoming Blog on Missional Involvement: Creating Missions Partners