Student Ministry. It’s a funny world. Constantly changing. We have just a few years to help students understand The Gospel and help them find their place in the family of God. But in a culture that is getting busier and busier and defining success by fatigue, in a culture that no longer values attending church as a family, how do you help students understand?
In praying and prepping for our Spring teaching series for Wednesday night student services, my heart kept returning to the lack of connection our students have with the whole of the church. Our students show up and press in on Wednesdays, surrounded by peers, but on Sunday mornings, the pews are empty save a handful who come because “that is what my family does”. Our church notices the absence and everyone has ideas about how to get students there. But often times, we are wanting the old methods to work in today’s context, and that just doesn’t cut it.
I think a big reason we aren’t seeing students in church is because they don’t see the value of the church and they don’t feel valued by the church. We have failed to communicate…and to live in the benefit of the family of God.
Sponsoring a child and adopting a child are two very different things*. I sponsor a little girl in El Salvador. Once a month, some money goes out of my account to provide for some basic needs she has. On occasion, I write her a letter telling her about my family or my job or my favorite color. It’s great. I love that I get to support her in a small way. I hope to meet her one day and hug her neck. But, the “requirement” of our relationship is minimal as is the benefit. Were I to adopt this little one, things would look very different. There would be a language gap we would have to learn to navigate. There would be tears that I would have to wipe away and tantrums I’d have to learn to react to appropriately. She would have to deal with an impatient mama. She would have to wait for me to fix her meals. She would hate me for not being gentle enough when combing out her tangled hair. I would have to discipline and she would hate to be disciplined. But, I would know what it is like to love someone as a mother. I would know the joy of seeing her grow and overcome challenges. I would be able to hold her and comfort her. She would teach me about having the trust of a child. She would make me laugh in ways only a mother does. She would twirl and spin and let me delight in her. These are difficulties and benefits that don’t come with a distant, minimal relationship. I am not void of responsibility for her, but I can only do so much from here. She has a place in my heart but due to the nature of our relationship, she does not always have a place in my awareness.
Some of you may know too, the difficulty of loving a family member who has chosen to live apart from the family. She is still your aunt, sister, cousin. He is still your brother, dad, uncle. But they have cut themselves off from the unit. And in this distance, they miss out on the benefit (along with the challenge) of being a part of the family. And, they are not the only ones missing out. The whole family is now different, less than. That family member brings something to the table that no other cousin, sibling, parent can and in their absence, the family is without the benefit of that relationship.
The Church is the same. We can choose to be a part of the family or apart from the family. Choosing to be a part of Her will be harder. There will be fights and wounds. There will be wars of words. There will be, often unwanted, discipline. But there will also be walking through hard days together. There will be encouragement for the weak times and mutual celebration for the victory days. There will be tears shed with the hurting and laughter in the unexpected ridiculous. And the family needs you to be a part of Her. You bring questions that we need to consider. You bring laughter that will make us better. You bring abilities that no one else does. And if you are apart from us, we will be lacking. You and I, if we are in Christ, will always belong to the family of God. We cannot lose our place at the table. However, we have a choice to make. Be a part of or apart from our family.
*Child sponsorship is highly valuable and can change lives. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please check out Compassion International.
Compassion is a holistic child development ministry that focuses on the full development of the child. Because of that, we release children from poverty, not merely sustain them through it. Many organizations focus on only one aspect of poverty. Compassion also recognizes that the children we serve have unique needs and unique gifts. Therefore, we work at the grassroots level to identify and meet the specific needs of the world’s poorest children through church partnership. In doing so, Compassion addresses the spiritual, economic, social and physical aspects of poverty so that children may become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.