If you pay much attention to my social media page, you’ve probably noticed a theme. No, I’m not talking about the Dallas Cowboys! I share pretty regularly about reaching students with the good news of Jesus Christ and training them in righteousness. I try to share in various ways encouragement for parents to make their child’s relationship with Christ a priority, tools for pastors to use in reaching students. As our church prepares for a major discipleship opportunity on the calendar I thought I would take some time to explain why this is such an important topic for me. I’m not the Student Pastor at our church, but I believe that ministry to students is one of the church’s most important callings.
In Matthew 28:19 the Church was given a commission by Jesus. It has become known, in fact, as the “Great Commission”. The commission was to “go” and “make disciples”. The church has been called to go into the world sharing the good news of Jesus and train those who put their faith in Christ to live as his disciples. A few books later in the New Testament, Jesus tells us that the Church will be His witness all over the world (Acts 1:8). The Church as she exists today in 2017 is a result of centuries of believers marching in obedience to her Lord’s commands. By God’s grace, the Kingdom of God has been established around the globe as believers have followed the Great Commission to go, and Jesus has sent them to the ends of the earth to proclaim His name!
These two verses from scripture have been some of the greatest catalysts to world mission, evangelism, and church planting. This is good and it is right. The Church should respond to these verses by going and proclaiming the Gospel. I don’t intend to cause any question or doubt of this truth. I do believe however that as we focus on “missions” simply as a category of ministry, we can overlook great opportunities to fulfill our mission as a church. One of these often-overlooked opportunities is our ministry to students. I expect you might be thinking that you have never been a part of a church that didn’t have a student ministry. If you live in the southern United States as I do, this is probably true. The problem I see is not a lack of focus on students. Instead, it is a lack of proper purpose. The reason I care so much about student ministry is that I see student ministry as a vital part of fulfilling the Great Commission and seeing Acts 1:8 fulfilled by the Church. In our church, we don’t have a “missions” ministry, but Students are a huge part of our mission. We see student ministry as a tool to fulfilling our great commission. I am convinced that effective training of students is one of the greatest things the church can do to see the gospel of Jesus Christ taken around the world.
Consider how many missionaries are sent out from the Church each year. How many missionaries can one church support financially? In our church plant, we have not yet seen a family called to the foreign mission field or to domestic church planting. We pray that we might one day see one of the members of our faith family sent out, and will continue to pray for that. If your church is larger or older you have probably had the blessing of sending out, but I expect the number is relatively low. We financially support a few partner organizations that have missionaries around the nation and globe. We are so thankful for these partners and the great work they do. I am thankful that our church has been faithful to give financially so that we might be a small part of the gospel work our partners are involved in. Again, however, this is a small group of missionaries. Like many churches, we give sacrificially but are only able to support a few. Now consider how many students graduate from our schools each year. How many of those students have been a regular part of your church and student ministry? In our small church, we have seen anywhere from six to ten students graduate each year of our three-year history who have been an active part of our student ministry. That is six to ten ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18) who have gone out from our body to the world each year. That is six to ten missionaries that we have had an opportunity to send into the heart of enemy territory. That is six to ten lives who will dispel darkness with the light of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:5). This, of course, can only be true if we have taken our responsibility as a church to these students seriously. We disciple students to be sent out. We don’t disciple students simply to make better choices or keep them out of trouble. That would be aiming way to low. We disciple students in order to see them become independently dependent on Christ ready to go out into the world making His name famous. We want to prepare students to go into battle!
I care so much about Student Ministry because I care about fulfilling the Great Commission given to us by our Lord Jesus. God has entrusted these young lives to the Church strategically. He intends to use them for His purposes and He has asked the church to get them ready. Think about the natural course of life for most students. Those six to ten students in our church have gone out from our body to other places in the world each year. Whether we send them out to the college campus, the military, or the workforce, we have an opportunity to send them out as ambassadors of the Kingdom (2 Cor 5:20). I don’t fear the world because Jesus has already won the victory. Yes, we have an enemy, but he will not overcome the power of Christ in us. I don’t want to live with anxiety over how our young people will fare when they go out from us. Instead, I want the enemy to shudder as we send out these students into his territory prepared and equipped to build the Kingdom of God wherever they may go! I want to see the church tap into this tremendous resource and watch with joy as our students turn the world upside down in the name of Jesus Christ. I believe it is our responsibility as a church to share the Gospel boldly and clearly with students, to train them in righteousness, and to send them out prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them (1 Pet 3:15). I am passionate about Student Ministry because these young souls have been entrusted to us by God and we should steward this tremendous resource well. Let us go therefore and make disciples of the young men and women of our community so that we may send them out in the power of the Holy Spirit to our city, our nation, and to the ends of the earth in the glorious name of Jesus Christ. For their good, and for His glory!
If you are a Pastor, I want to encourage you to recognize the great opportunity God has given you to disciple the young men and women in your church. Student Ministry should not be seen as something you offer or support simply to attract families to your church. It should not be seen as a means to an end. Rather, look at the students in your church as the future of the church. Pour your resources into this ministry and rejoice as you send them out as warriors for the Gospel!
If you are a Parent, I want to encourage you to see the church as a valued partner in training your children. The world will not prepare them for battle. The sports arena will teach them many great lessons, but it will not prepare them to dispel darkness with the light of Christ. You are the primary faith trainer for your child and God has given the church as your partner. Connect with a local body of Christ and build into your child’s heart a love for Christ and His Church.