Last night we had "Attend & Encourage Another Student Ministry" night.
Yes - you heard me! Yes - we told students we weren't gonna meet and we sent them to other ministries in Katy! And yes, the questions have come in: What? Why? Don't we pay our own student pastor to have ministries for our students? What if they teach something we don't believe? What if they like another ministry better? Yadda, yadda, yadda....
This idea actually came up last summer and our leadership students loved it! So why have a night like this? I can think of several reasons:
- Students need to see the greater body of Christ in action! It's easy to get caught up in your own "student ministry world" and lose sight that there are other ministries that are not only doing a great job but, like iron sharpens iron, we can learn from and collaborate with. I've worked hard for years to see ministries in Katy encourage each other and work together. These ministries care for students and have the Gospel down!
- Students can forget what it is like to be the "visitor." It's easy to get comfortable week after week with the same friends - even ones you bring. But whenever you come into a new place, a new environment, a different structure, it can be awkward and a bit scary. One student who went to the ministry I showed up to last night grabbed me by the sleeve and begged, "Please stick close to me Mr Bill!" I was amazed because only 2 months ago SHE was the visitor to our student ministry! I want students to know this feeling because it can make them more sensitive to students who visit our ministry.
- It can help students take ownership. Want students more involved in your student ministry? Send 'em elsewhere and have them come back with ideas to make yours better. They can, they do and it works!
- It creates faith-building teaching opportunities. What if they attend another ministry where they heard false teaching? Great! I'm not sending them elsewhere every week. The weeks they are in our ministry I guarantee they get Bible truth and that will help them discern truth from error. And even if this happens, you do what every parent does when their son or daughter asks a question. You discuss it together. Doing this helps students take ownership of their own faith which is a must, in my mind, before they leave high school.
- Students usually come back with a greater appreciation of their own student ministry. I heard this from most all of the students after last night. Now - our students know I have no desire for our ministry to become any type of "club", but I do want them to have a place in the body of Christ where they feel a belonging, because, sadly, for some, this is the only place where they feel that.
So, I don't feel threatened a bit by sending my students to visit some of the great ministries in our town. As a called minister of God, I want to give my students the best and work hard to do so. And if our ministries aren't the best (and you have to define best) - then shame on us, let's get them there! But if for whatever reason, a student (and/or their family) finds a better fit where they can worship, love & serve Jesus - I am totally cool with that!
Ok, I said a lot. And for now, I still have a job :)