How is the message I tell students with my words different from the message I tell them with my actions? Specifically in the area of equipping them to do the things Jesus did…and to do all the things I do. I say they aren’t too young. But do I mean it?
As I look across scripture, it’s clear that God doesn’t discriminate based on age. Everyone got to play! The kingdom was available to ALL who were ready to receive it and take part in it. There wasn’t a magical age when a person became old enough to take part in the things of God.
Take little boy Daniel, for example, who did what no one else was willing to do. The rest of the army was looking around, not making eye contact, whistling a tune and shuffling their foot in the dirt hoping that someone else would step up to the plate. And this short little tike said he’d stand up to the giant, grabbed his slingshot and was on his way!
Then there’s little Samuel who had a big job to deliver a Word from the Lord to a man he had great respect for. This little boy didn’t even know God yet, and God chose to speak to him to get to Eli.
And, of course, the disciples – they certainly didn’t have much life experience yet. We know these guys were all very young men. Yet all of them were invited to play. All of them had a job to do. Nothing was held back from them – the fullness of the Kingdom was available to each of them.
Of course, we see great leadership in how Jesus equipped and released them to do what he had been doing. We see moments of “I do, you watch,” then “I do, you help,” followed by “You do, I help”, and then the great release of “You do, I cheer.”
It’s amazing to me that Jesus didn’t just pick the easier things for them to do. He didn’t only let them pray for people because they were young. No, he sent them out to preach, to cast out demons, and perform miracles – because all of God’s power was available to them as sons of the Father in Heaven! Jesus let them do ALL the things he was doing.
They failed sometimes. Each moment of failure was an opportunity for discipleship.
What am I withholding from students because I don’t think they are ready yet? What am I reserving for those with a certain level of experience or skill? How am I communicating to students that they ARE, in fact, too young to engage in the Kingdom of God and to do what I do because I’m not willing to give the opportunity or allow them to fail? Where am I valuing excellence in delivery over discipling through opportunities for development?
Of course, great leadership requires great discernment and careful wisdom. But sometimes great leadership is having the courage to get out of the way to make room for those who come after me.
So practically, what if it ALL was available to them? Of course, they can be on the worship team, serve cookies, or serve on a tech team. But what if you let them preach? What if you train them to be on the prayer team? If you’ve got students with excellent social skills, let them call the first time guests and welcome them. If you have shy students, enlist them in serving coffee or wrapping cords to help the worship team close up shop. We recognize each one has a unique skill set and gift mix. But also recognize that where you start them is not where they land. Jesus let the disciples watch him, then sent them out to do the things he did, then they came back for review. Then they got to try more. And more. And more.
The disciples grew in competency as they were WITH Jesus. They gained confidence as they were discipled through their successes and failures.
If we really believe students aren’t too young to be active participants in the Kingdom, lets put a plan in place to equip them in ALL the things we do. Let’s not let “busy” get in the way of multiplying ourselves and raising up leaders to change the world.