There have been a few key principles that have defined the student ministry I lead for the past handful of years. One of these is training students to live missionally in their world – to take God’s power and presence to their schools, their sports teams, their families, their neighborhoods, the normal everyday places and spaces of their lives.
We have trained leaders, nailed teaching series’, celebrated where we see it happening, and literally turned programs on their head to run after this goal. The first signs of fruit are budding.
There are stories of students starting student-led ministries on their school campuses, having incredible conversations with their friends about what God is really like, impacting their friends in such a way that these friends who have met Jesus are going back to THEIR families and being an influence there. It’s only the beginning. There’s so much more.
But is this a ministry strategy, or is it my life? Is this merely something I’m implementing into the ministry I lead to see if we can gain a measure of “success”, or am I so convinced that this is the best way to live that I’m living it myself?
Jesus gathered a group of guys, mainly in their teenage years, to come close to his life and follow him. This group of “unexpected picks,” to say the least, got a front row seat to watch him, to learn from him, and ultimately learn to imitate his life. They watched him preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons and then he trained them to do the same.
Not only did Jesus teach them about the Kingdom of God, he showed them what it was like. These friends of his received major downloads of information, but they also saw what it looked like within the context of his life. They watched. They tried it. They had a life to imitate.
As we’re sending our students out into their lives to bring the Kingdom there, there’s a certain level of awkwardness they have to work out. There are questions about the insecurities they feel on the inside, about how to talk to their friends about God without sounding like a salesman, about how to represent Jesus well without being weird. We’ve all had those same questions, haven’t we?
Rather than giving my students theoretical answers, I want to tell them personal stories. I want to be working out these same awkward questions within the context of my own life so they can see this really is the best life. I want to give them a life to imitate. I want them to see my inner risk taker – to see me trying new things to work out the calling from Jesus to go and make disciples.
So – our family has been trying to work out what it looks like for us to be a family on mission. We’re still learning, but have had a few things stick and feel like a “win” for us. Here’s a sneak peek into few of those things:
- Our neighborhood is where we feel called to invest. We threw a block party last summer to stir up some new relationships on our street and sift out what People of Peace the Lord had right in front of us.
- Holidays have become more about an opportunity to hang with our neighbors. To get out and be with them. More opportunity to stir up relationship.
- Community events in our town get put on our calendar first and trump other things that might come up. We want to be present. National Night Out and our town’s carnival are key for where we live.
- We have found a couple hobbies that pull the neighbors together. Currently, it’s RC cars. Who knew?!
Those are just a few of the things our family has landed on. Our neighborhood is our mission, so we’re constantly asking the Lord for innovative ideas on how to be present, to build relationship, and how to represent Him there. That’s our life. And my students and leaders get a front row seat.
There are certainly moments of awkwardness, moments where things didn’t go as awesome as I planned, or where I just plain fail. But as I’m fumbling through what a missional life looks like, our students are too.
What about you? What are the key principles your ministry lives by? Do you have a life to imitate in those areas?