The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry
Music is powerful. Hearing a song or melody in the morning will often implant the tune into your head for the rest of the day. As I think about my time in student ministry, going on the 15th year, there are certain songs that stick out to me about a particular time in student ministry or are representative of a principle that I learned along the way, often through mistakes of my own. Here are some of those songs and related learnings:
- “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake – An anthem to many student pastors and representative of my own attitude for a time in ministry. I had a direction that I wanted to go, and I was headed there with or without anyone else. Many times it felt like I was “born to walk alone.” Why? Because I had a vision, a clear direction that I felt strongly about. In the words of Whitesnake, “I had made up my mind, I ain’t waistin’ no more time.” The only problem with that is that I needed people. You need people too. Take the time to bring people along and educate them on the vision that is so clear to you. Remember, just because you have clarity doesn’t mean they do. Supporters are earned and built, not given. Student ministry isn’t a road that you walk alone. It’s something that you are meant to do walking in community. You need people both in the ministry and outside of it to survive.
- “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” – If you were involved in student ministry in the 80s or early 90s then you are familiar with this one. I was a student in the ministry at that time and this song will be forever burned into my brain. Can you believe that student ministries at that time actually “worshipped” to that song? I’m grateful that worship in student ministry has progressed. The lesson here is that students need to be taken seriously. They need to be challenged and they are able to worship like any other believer on the planet. The interesting thing to me was that there were gospel-centered, Christ-exalting songs in the church. It wasn’t like they were unavailable. Yet, students weren’t taken seriously in their worship. Let’s not let that happen again. Choose songs for your ministry that point students to Jesus where they will be transformed.
- “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by the Righteous Brothers – As a junior in highschool I was asked to lip sync this song for a skit. Yes, we did skits. No, they weren’t awesome. However, the girl that I would one day marry (5 years later) happened to be sitting on the front row that day and received a memorable Top Gun style lip sync serenading. Fortunately for me she forgave that and went on a date with me a year later. As a student pastor this song reminds me of the many relationships that began and ended over the course of a week of camp. There’s something about the camp atmosphere that fosters this short term relationship experience. It is one of those things that you can’t stop, but only hope to contain. For some of you, or students that you had in your ministry, that relationship actually lasted. For most, you were left thinking “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, and it’s gone, gone, gone.”
- “Friends in Low Places”, Live version, by Garth Brooks – I remember the day I dropped this album, along with all the rest of my “secular” music into a cardboard box that was spraypainted “box of sin.” At that time, and still prevalent today, there was a major emphasis on Christians students listening to only Christian music. I was one of those students who was guilted into throwing away all of my “bad” music. I understand this may sound silly to some of you, but this emphasis is still alive and well in many student ministries today. While the thought behind this is important, believers need to pay attention to what we put in our minds and what we dwell on, do we really want to reduce student ministry to the platform of secular vs. Christian music? I have a suggestion, let’s spend our time preaching Jesus and focusing our students toward Him; introducing them to His love and helping their love for Him to grow. Then, their love for Jesus will determine what they put in their minds, which ends up being a lot more powerful than guilting them to throw away their secular music only to download half of it again on iTunes a little while later.
- “Always” by Kristian Stanfill – There are times in student ministry when you will feel like you are surrounded by trouble and chaos. There may even be times when you feel weak or fearful. This song is a great reminder that our strength comes from the Lord. Your strength as a student pastor is God’s strength, not your own (Colossians 1:11). He is your refuge and strength (Psalm 46). The next time a storm approaches you, in ministry or not, remember what you preach to your students. Remember that your God will not delay. He will come through, always.