Most of us remember what it is like in the lunchroom. After you get your lunch you scan the room for a table to sit where you will feel welcome. Adolescence can be a season of devastating insecurity, and the lunchroom can shine a spotlight on your loneliness. Kids are just waiting for someone to shine and share the Gospel with them.
I have spent a lot of time in lunch rooms with kids. Today as much as ever we must not abandon the lunch room and other places kids hang out. We need brave young leaders who are willing to go into the world of kids to be authentic representatives of Jesus. A song by John Michael Talbot casts a compelling biblical vision for those who might go offer the Bread of Life of the Gospel to kids in middle schools, high schools, and colleges:
Come to the table He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Savior wants you to join in the feast,,,
And here at the table, sit those who have loved you
One is a traitor and one will denyBut He’s lived his life for them all
And for all be crucified (John Michael Talbot song, “Come to the Table”)
REMEMBER THE LUNCHROOM SO YOU DON’T LOSE YOUR HEART FOR ADOLESCENTS & THE GOSPEL
Imagine carting your lunch tray out of the food line and as you look over the crowd you see a popular kid smile at you. With the wave of his hand he invites you to come sit at his table. You probably feel awkward. Like crossing the street you look side to side wondering if he is waving at you. Glancing back, you see his eyes look right at you. He nods and beckons you to come sit next to him. Sheepishly approaching his table, his friends shift a bit to make room for you. And they all give you a warm welcome. This is a picture of the Good News of Jesus. It symbolizes the ministry of reconciliation Jesus has given to his disciples to share with the world through warm hospitality.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1)
WHEN SOMEONE INVITED ME TO THE TABLE
When I was I was in high school, this scene happened to me, but it happened on a soccer field, not the lunch room….
If you are a college student, student ministry leader, or parent of a college student I want you to read this post. College is a window of opportunity. With just a bit of intentionality your college ministry experience could be the difference between a bowl of oatmeal and a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipping cream. Our college campuses are of course intensely secular places, but there’s really nothing new about that. Followers of Jesus have always been on the outside, a little strange in comparison to the dominant culture. Yet one thing that does seem different today on college campuses is the scale of erosion in the soil of Christian community.
The concern is that without context, it is hard for a young believer to grow and progress in Christ. Without an adequate alternative culture of Jesus-loving friends around you, there is a good chance you will be impacted more by the dominant culture around you, rather than you impacting it. Context to live out our faith is absolutely crucial.
Confucius is one of China’s most revered sages. Although he lived and taught his disciples somewhere around 551-479 B.C., Confucianism is still the most popular philosophy in China today. The context of Confucius’ rise in popularity is interesting. Times were chaotic and quite violent in China at the time of his professional life. There were great divides between classes and clans and this was disturbing to Confucius because it weakened society and created distrust and poverty. He grew up with minimal personal family connection so this seemed to create a vacuum in his own heart for connectedness and the benefits of a tight-knit family. Understanding his background helps us understand where the deep roots of his philosophy came from.
GREAT TEAMS KNOW HOW TO ASSIMILATE NEW TEAM MEMBERS
After reading, would you be willing to share this and offer a comment below? I respond to each comment.
Each semester it is common for a student ministry team to add a new leader or two. It is rare for teams to remain static for too long and it is actually a sign of health in your recruitment and training strategy if you are regularly adding new leaders on your youth ministry or college ministry team. God is constantly at work raising up new laborers for his harvest field so it is really important to have a plan for assimilating new leaders on your team:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ – Matthew 9:36-38).
All of us have been “new” to a team at some point so it should be easy for us to relate. But in reality it takes discipline to keep reminding yourself how others might be feeling like an outsider. It is helpful to step back and put yourself in a new team members shoes. This greatly improves your ability to help them assimilate to your team.
My good friend, Tom Harcus who started the Crossway Chapel church planting network offers some great insight on building relationships. Whenever you want to break ground and build new relationships, these principles will work. They are especially insightful and valuable to me because if you carry out these principles you will not only plant churches, but they will likely be new churches with a fun and inviting student ministry DNA from the get go.
MVC’s Student Ministry Leaders Juggle a ton to give 7-10 hours a week to serve students!
Love without conversation is impossible. –Mortimer Adler
After reading this, would you be willing to share this and offer a comment below? I respond to each comment.
I remember meeting the philosopher, Mortimer Adler when I was a middle school kid in Aspen, CO. And the one thing I remember about him, besides he is really smart, is that he talked to me, even though I was probably the youngest person in the room. In all my years of student ministry, I believe if you can learn just 3 skills you will impact more students than you can possibly dream of. If you want to have a dynamic student ministry then simply help your leadership team excel in these areas and then the rest is gravy. I’ve attached at the end of this post a 1 page resource you can download that will help you keep meeting new students and following up with them well.
1 – BEING THERE
You may be able to recruit people to serve in your student ministry. You may even be able to get them to commit to training. But to get them to commit to going to a middle school, high school, or college campus 1-2 times a week to meet students and build relationships is what separates the prairie dogs from the pandas.
The best way to keep the communication lines wide open with teenagers is to consistently show them respect. Distance is what adolescents often feel from adults. They think adults don’t understand them, are vastly different from them, and don’t struggle with what they struggle with.
This could not be further from the truth. Here are three things that teenagers need to constantly hear from you through verbal and nonverbal vibes…
One of the more important issues to address in modern youth culture is how to help youth align their lives with God’s design for relationships and sexuality. There are so many mixed messages. Young people are so wounded and looking for love and acceptance. Girls are willing to give themselves away to a guy to get love, and guys are willing to give some relationship if they can get sex. Young people, who are so relationship hungry are being misled in ways that you may not even be able to imagine.
YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE TOO MANY BLIND GUIDES REGARDING SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS…
Youth are significantly influenced by their friends. This is why it’s important to have youth leaders who can model what it means to be a good friend.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:3
Friendship is important in every stage of development. But during adolescence friendship becomes central to everything. This is a critical stage of development because teenagers are building a foundation for having good friendships the rest of their lives.
One of the most powerful benefits of healthy youth ministry is that we can help kids understand God’s design for relationships. Jesus talked alot about friendship, and we know that he nurtured model friendships in his disciples. A teenager’s intense preoccupation with friendship is a good thing. It is an opportunity for the adults in their lives to imprint in them a road map for a lifetime of good friendships. Here’s how…
Teens think a lot about what they want in a relationship. This is an opportunity for youthworkers to help them align w/ God’s design for sex & relationships
Teenagers are intensely relational. They are figuring out who they are and what it means to be a friend. They are also thinking about what they desire in a relationship. This is a very normal stage of development. It is also an incredible opportunity for youth workers to help teenagers figure out how to align their lives with God’s design for sex and relationships.
A survey at a high school outreach camp asked a few hundred kids this question:
What is one thing that you want from a relationship?
Here are their answers: