Are you feeling frustrated or discouraged that your students aren’t seeming to live out their faith in their spheres of influence? Here are three major things that might be holding them back:
1. They don’t believe they can.
Because of personality, or level of introversion, nervousness, or because they are just one voice in the middle of a big loud world, many students don’t believe that they can be an influence for the gospel. “Being an influence” sounds like a really big task, and part of the role of a student pastor is to help teenagers understand that fulfilling the call of being an influence for the gospel often means having influence on people in their own homes, or the person they sit next to at lunch every day, or their next door neighbors rather than big stages and hundreds or thousands of people. Helping teenagers see the simplicity of being a light for people in the rooms that they are in (Matthew 5) opens the door of understanding they can be an influence and that God has already put them in places for them to do so.
2. It’s not modeled by leadership.
The easiest thing to do as a student pastor is to stand on a stage or sit in a group and tell students they need to be an influence for the gospel and then step off the stage never doing it ourselves. If the Matthew 5 lifestyle of being salt and light to this world is going to be embraced by our students, it needs to be visible in our lives and in the lives of our volunteer leaders first and foremost. This is best transmitted through relationships that exist beyond the time spent at church. When you and your leaders have growing relationships with students, they will see what your life is really like, and how your relationship with Jesus applies to the everyday—that it’s sometimes messy and always imperfect, and that Jesus is real. They will see your influence shining in the rooms that you go into in the middle of real life and through that, will begin to do it themselves.
3. They are scared.
The opinions of peers have and always will be a primary influence in the lives of teenagers. They are concerned with identity and image and will often avoid things they believe will tarnish or destroy the image they are working hard to construct. The solution here isn’t to dismiss the opinions of the “culture” or to use gospel shaming through statements like “look at all that Jesus did for us, we should be willing to be an influence for Him.” Instead, the solution is to continually introduce students to the love of God, to the person of Jesus, the message of the gospel, and the truth of scripture letting the work of the Holy Spirit transform the heart of a student. This is the work of connecting a teenager’s heart to the Vine of Jesus (John 15) and as they are more and more connected to the Vine, they become more like Him, including being an influence in their world.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.