I love at attractional ministry as much as the next guy. I love the hype, the big games, the thrill of the crowd, the dynamics of a full room. In fact, most of how I judge my effectiveness in student ministry is by how full I can get the room.
But one of the pit falls of this approach is that us youth workers end up ministering to the “crowd” and not to the individual students. As a crowd, students generally play ball. They engage games, seem to engage in worship, listen quietly and give us adults the answers we want to hear in small groups.
This is all well and good and strokes our ego. But my fear is that as we engage the crowd, we loose sight of the individual students, their stories, their issues, and their world view.
The more time I spend with students, I am convinced that students are more than rebellious teens, or broken in need of healing, but they are straight up lost. They have no idea what end is up or who or why they ended up where they are or do what the do.
Even though they may play ball in our system, the truth is that their world view is so far removed from ours. And if this is the case, the we must as the question, “What are we really doing as a student ministry?”
For as much as I love at tractional ministry, I am wondering if the call is for us youth workers to take on the mantle of Christ and leave the 99 and find that one who is lost and in peril. When the shepherd does this, he grabs the sheep, places her on his shoulders and brings her back to the flock.
I am not advocating for a missional approach, where we abandon our attractional model and send our students out to do bible studies on campus or coffee shops. This assumes are students are with us, and just don’t like church. I am saying we must recognize that our students are fundamentally lost.
They are in desperate need of someone to find them and rescue them. They are so lost, they don’t even know they are lost or in peril. And this means that it is even more imperative for us to get out there and scan the horizon. We look out for students who won’t simply come and play ball, but for the students who are on the edge of the cliff.
When we find them, we love them, we walk with them, and we graciously carry them back tot he fold.
May Jesus give us his eyes as we examine our student ministry and even more so as we look out at our students.