Party For One
I recently had an interesting conversation with a fellow minister who primarily works with students. As is th case quite often in student ministry, they are in a time of transition, and in the down side of the “numbers cycle.” My brother in Christ lamented the notion that they have more sponsors than students at the moment, and asked how you can keep producing top notch environments and experiences designed for larger numbers of students who those numbers simply aren’t there.
I reminded him of many things he already knew, but want to share some key thoughts and how they apply not just to student ministry, but to every day life for us all.
Every ONE is important to God.
Read Luke chapter 15. Yeah, you are that important to God. He would throw a party for just you! That’s how much He loves you. Do not ever let sat an tell you that you are unworthy of love. Jesus is the refutation of that lie! If you were the ONLY person on earth, Jesus would still die for your sins.
Speak the 4 P’s into the lives of those you are discipling.
POSITIVE – be positive about what is going on. Yes, you can acknowledge the challenges ahead, but take the positive track. For example, you only have two or three regular attenders? Focus on them and build them up. Encourage them. Help them understand how much you appreciate the spiritual maturity they exhibit on a daily basis.
PRAISE them for their faithfulness. It takes a lot more strength & fortitude to attend when the numbers are small than when “everyone is coming.” They need to know that their spiritual maturity is shining and is appreciated. They may not be as mature as you make them out to be, but we’ll discuss that in the last of the 4 P’s.
PREFERRED FUTURE – Cast the vision both collectively and in one-on-one sessions. I have found that mall food courts are excellent places to do one-on-one meetings with students. It’s public, open, and provides the safety for students and student ministers while affording a private meeting space around a table. Thrown in a meal and you can usually hook a student to attend such a pow-wow. Ask the student what they see in the future for the student ministry. Ask them how they would go about achieving that preferred future. Cast the vision for them, and show them how they play a crucial role in achieving that preferred future.
PROPHETIC – Finally, speak prophetically into their lives. Remember when I said to praise them for their spiritual maturity? They may not truly be all that mature yet, but when you treat them like a maturing Christ-follower, and when you speak to them about how exciting it is to see their faith in action, to see how mature they are in Christ, then they will work that much harder to go in that direction. Your encouragement will lead them to do things for the Kingdom and be the person in Christ they may not have even thought of yet.
If that student with whom you are meeting was the ONLY person left on the planet, Jesus would throw a party for them. Treat them accordingly.
Remember, most ministry, but especially student ministry, is cyclical in nature. Every now and then, you have to start from scratch. That is not necessarily a “bad thing.” Jesus turned the whole world upside down with 12 unschooled men. He didn’t start out with 12, but He took who He had and He worked with them. Molding these followers in His own image, He trained them and released them for ministry. Take the folks you have in the ministry you have been charged to take care of, and mold those folks in the image of Jesus. Release them for ministry and watch their world turn upside down for Christ as well. Do not be discouraged. Discouragement comes from satan. Start where you are, and do your best with those whom have been entrusted to your care. Honor Christ in all you do, and teach those whom you are discipling to do the same. THAT is your calling. Nothing more. Nothing less.