There are events, services and intentional efforts that we make to connect with the students in the community who are not part f our ministries. The hope would be to present the Gospel, or offer an experience that will make this community want to come back and eventually be a part of the ministry. There are also some things to remember about reaching our to the community students.
First, they may not know know how to act, so teach them don’t punish them. I am all for having rules and boundaries, but ministry is not always black and white. We often operate in the gray areas of life when it comes to holding students accountable about their actions and behaviors. This is the “picking our battles” of ministry. I wouldn’t say someone is dressed inappropriately if they are visiting for the first time (unless it is extreme), but I would tell them that beating on the little freshman is not an acceptable thing. With churches students I have no problem holding them accountable if they know the expectations and telling them that their clothes are not what we would expect or flicking boogers at the guy she has a crush on.
Secondly, be aware of the “insider” language you use or how you unpack the language. So, if teaching about the trinity don’t assume everyone knows what it is. Give them the foundation for the terms being used and make that a time of teaching and a time to demystify the church talk.
Finally, follow up. Within the first week of them being at an event or ministry program that they were a blessing to have and invite them back. I have not met a student with “too many” places that they feel comfortable. Welcome them as they enter you r ministry for the first time and welcome them back into the community.
These are just a couple of thoughts I have had, what do you do to welcome the students outside of your ministry?
The other night Eden wanted to put herself to bed. She read some stories with the kindle fire and then snuggled down. I had to come in for a final back rub and Katie had to pray with her, but it was a great start. Way to go Eden!!
In our student ministry we are beginning a series called “Home” from now until Christmas. The series is all about the prodigal son parable and where we fit in the story and where God is when we go off the ranch. With this I thought that I would shape the next couple of Faith Lab posts to reflect the different characters in the story.
Our character today is the younger son with the mentality that he is leaving.
There are times in the lives of our ministry where we will see our students making decisions that we know will come back to bite them in the rear. These could be decisions about partying or not, who to date, what they believe about the trinity, how many stuffed animals in the bed constitutes a suffocation hazard…whatever and we long to help the situation before it happens. What we learn from the father figure in the parable is that there are times where we have to let to poor decisions be made by our students, but we can always do something.
Pray: we are always able to prays for our kids, weather they like it or not. They don’t even have to know we are doing to. Be through prayer we can intervene on their behalf.
Help them fail forward: when they make the poor decisions, I told you so is not always the most compassionate responses. Yet we can unpack the situation and experience with them. Lets use the mistakes as teachable moments and give God thanks that they didn’t make the decision while at college where there is offer much less accountability and time for reflection. Failing forward enables our students to make mistakes and learn from them before they become a pattern of life.
Hang in there: When students fall away from our ministry or make poor choices we want to continue to remind them that we have a place that they can call home. continue to invite, encourage and love on the students that are hard to love at times. Student ministry is a lot of ground breaking, soil preparing and seed planting, so don’t lose hope if you don’t see things sprout.
What is the one thing that you want the most this Christmas?
A couple of weeks ago we had our ecumenical service for thanksgiving. This year we hosted the service at MUMC. It was a great time in part because I had to do little when the serivce came about. I had to make a number of the arrangements before the service, but when the time came to worship it was great to see the community come together. Each of the congregations that were represented came to worship with a little bit different posture. As the cathloic church and the Lutherans came with more of a high church metality, my congregation and the ucc church had came to worship as if we were meeting with a friend. I don’t know that either is better than the other but there is some great bennifit in changeing our approach to worship and our understanding of who God is.
During this advent season time some time to go to a worship service or two that are not like your weekly experiences. Bring some of your students with you and talk about what was the same and how things were done differently. Avoid using language of right and wrong or better and worse. Remember that we all encounter God in a different way and to belittle one experience over another could makebour students feel like they are doing something wrong in worship if they don’t connect like us and adds to the growing feelings tthat Christians aare just a bunch of bickering hypocrites.
Enjoy the diversity this season. You may find renewal in the most unlikely places.