If there’s one thing that modern culture, technology, and the evolutionary world view have killed in even our Christian teenagers, it’s a life vision. Today, we desperately need an army of student ministry leaders to awaken vision in the hearts of young people. While some teens have some small form of vision for their future, most do not, and those that do usually shoot way low! Most don’t see at all beyond their XBox, iPod, and Facebook page. The result? Lethargy. Apathy. Deadness. A “what’s the point?” perspective on life. The thought process is something like this, “If nobody else believes in me or cares about my future, why should I? Pass the remote control!” As a student ministry leader, I believe God has called me to help young hearts break out of that mentally oppressive enclosure. Let me try to picture for you what I’m talking about.
Recently in Sunday School we were studying lesson five of the Discover Your Destiny series—”What About My Plans?” Historically I start this class by asking individual teens to share their plans and dreams. “What are your hopes for after high school?” We go around the room and kids hesitantly say everything from, “I”m planning to go to Bible college and serve God with my life” to “I’m planning on joining the military and then going into law enforcement.”
One of the exciting aspects of this class is simply taking a moment to “affirm” the amazing potential and future greatness in their lives. As I looked into the eyes of greatness to be, I was overwhelmed with their potential, but also with the fact that they probably struggle to believe that God really has a great plan for them! One young lady said, “I want to be an elementary teacher.” My heart soared when imagining what a great teacher she would be—and I told her so. “You would make the most incredible 3rd grade teacher, and school with you would be hilariously awesome!” One young man hesitantly said, “I would like to be a pastor.” My heart again raced with excitement as I imagined what a great pastor he could actually be! I told him so, “You would be a fantastic pastor, and I know God would use you to grow and encourage people!” Then something amazing happened.
The class was silent. (Pretty amazing if you know this class!) Riveted. Every eye and every ear attuned. Every single person in the room was dialed in to what was happening. And the kids I was affirming seemed to soak it up. I could tell this was a “God-moment.” I could tell whatever was happening was of the Lord. The Holy Spirit seemed to say, “These kids live in a world that works in excess to kill these dreams and visions. They live in a culture that views them as a marketing group and only wants to lull them into nothingness. They are ignited when someone actually stops and sees real vision and potential in them!” Then He said to me, “One of your responsibilities is to help awaken them to my vision for their future!” “Yes, Lord… Here am I… send ME!”
I made a decision after class. As long as God gives me breath and energy to serve young people, I want to stay captivated by His vision for each of their lives! And I want to communicate that passion to every young life that I can! Yes, I want them to love God. Yes, I want them to develop a real faith. Yes, I want them to live to honor the Lord. But right up there with all these things, I want to transfer a fiery, energetic vision to their hearts. I want God to use me to help them see the potential He has placed into their lives, to surrender that potential, develop it, and then use it for Him. I want to be a tipping point in their lives. I want their futures to be different because God gave me a moment with them. I want to be a catalyst for their future greatness for God. I want them to look back to my time with them and say, “That was one guy who helped me see that God has something special for me!”
The purpose of this post is simply to remind student ministry leaders of two things. First, your students need you to be passionate about their future. Your students are very capable of engaging with a significant vision for life, but they need you to be the catalyst—start the fire! In fact, without even realizing it, they are starving for this type of visionary leadership. Their hearts crave and long for someone to step in and capture their hearts for a fresh, compelling vision. They long for something to awaken them from their stupor and to call them to eternal significance. Like starving refugees, they devour attention that affirms their potential and helps them see beyond the mundane, digital babysitting components of their lives. They respond with vibrance and eagerness when they interact with someone who genuinely believes in them as amazing individuals.
Second, your calling is bigger than program. Your ministry isn’t the sum total of fundraisers, an activity schedule, broken down buses, corny jokes, and a short Bible lesson on Sundays. Don’t let the repetitive nature or the mundane details of your everyday existence in youth ministry cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture. The kids within your influence are growing up very rapidly! Before you know it, your time with them—your opportunity to significantly influence them—will come to an end. You have a huge mission and a short moment to make it happen. Lift your eyes to their future and help them see what God has in mind! It’s one of the most significant things you can do!
So go for it. Think beyond your next youth activity. Get outside of your program world. Don’t get too zoned in on the few scorners or rebels. Stop worrying about being accepted or cool to the teens. And whatever you do, DON’T look at or become enamored with the contemporary youth ministry models of the evangelical movement unless you are writing a term paper on colossal failure!
Instead, get alone with God and let Him re-ignite your heart for what the kids in your youth group could become. Let God show you future pastors, teachers, leaders, parents, missionaries, etc. And then start telling them about it. Affirm them! Call them to the highest pursuit of life! Believe in them and in God’s heart for them! Be consumed with drawing their hearts into God’s vision through His Word! You will be amazed at how they will grow into the vision and beyond it in the years to come.
The greatest influencers of my past were people who joyfully and abundantly helped me see and believe in God’s vision for my life. I had many such mentors. And along the way, I had some discouragers too—even a few in spiritual leadership. To this day, I remember the influencers and thank God for the vision they helped me embrace. And I remember the discouragers and regret that they missed their moment to stir and challenge me as a young person.
Today, personally, my greatest heroes in the ministry are the young people who grew up in our youth group and are now serving God with their lives. I stand in awe of them. I’m humbled to call them friends. They are truly greatness personified. They are all over the place doing amazing things for God, and I am one “lucky puppy” to have been granted just a moment with them along their journey to greatness. My influence on them was only one of many and was brief. But in that moment, I know I gave my best to helping them see God’s vision for their future! God give me more moments like those for Your glory!
In everything you do, and in every way possible, determine to challenge every young person you influence to the highest vision of life—the vision of living out the adventure we call “the perfect will of God”! There is no better life, and there is no better reason to be in student ministry!