Student ministry is such a strang calling. For those of us in the game, we have given away our lives and often our lively hood to generously love kids into the Kingdom of God! This is a high calling and one that gets less and less glamorous with each and every passing year.
But one of the things that keep us going is our deep love for students. I am not talking about generic "students." I am talking about the deep love we have for the individual kids in our ministries. In fact, it is our love for them that many youth workers put up with low wages, dysfunctional staff teams, and often struggle to move on to greener pastures. This is an awesome thing and you should be commended for this supernatural love and the never-ending grace and mercy you pour out on your kids.
But it is that last statement that often ends up spinning us out. We pour out our entire lives into "our kids." I love this language because it is the language of deep love and commitment. It is a way to frame our ministry and justify our deep affection. While all of this is good, even great, there is a brutal reality that needs to be kept in perspective as we spend this season giving our entire lives to these particular students.
Here it is: THESE KIDS ARE NOT YOUR KIDS.
These kids have their own parents and families that have been and will continue to love them for their entire lives and in every season! We only get to love them for a brief season and in a specific context. So me must do ministry accordingly.
I have been doing student ministry for over 20 years and have my own biological kids taking up space in our church's student ministry. And it is a brutal gut check to realize that the kids that come in and out of our student ministries, and the student ministries that we come in and out of are simply a unique moment in time where we are called to do a particular ministry.
A math teacher doesn't own the entire mathematical formation for their students. They are simply stewards of the class they are called to teach. To do a good job with what they have been given, fix some of the deficiencies that showed up in their class and then prepare them for the next year and the next class. And that is exactly what we are called to do.
We are stewards of this moment of this grouping of students and while they are under our care we pour out our entire lives, help heal and fix some of the deficiencies of their past experiences and then launch them well into their next season.
With this in mind we are now able to do our job even better. For the long-term care and spiritual formation of "our kids" will not be done by us, but will be done by THEIR parents and THE church. Both of those will exist for far longer than we will in the lives of our particular students.
This means that the vast majority of our ministry MUST be building up the church and the family so that these kids we love with all of our hearts, might have a shot of loving Jesus into adulthood.
Orange is first and foremost a ministry philosophy and strategy. Then it is a curriculum company that produces helpful materials to execute this philosophy and strategy. While the material they produce is great, it is the philosophy and strategy that I would love for you to wrestle with.
Orange is the recognition that for the best possible chance for our kids to know and love Jesus into adulthood, they need to have the combination of two distinct colors/influences. They need the red (heart) of the family and the yellow (light) of the church, and together they make orange!
This week is #orangeweek and an opportunity to take a deeper look into Orange and the incredible materials they produce as well as considering attending the Orange Conference to be encouraged and trained in this ministry philosophy and strategy. Please take a look at all this company has to offer and consider coming. If you sign up this week you will save some big money! If you can't come, then soak up the free live stream and the free resources that are scattered throughout the internet and youtube!
I love that you love your youth group kids like they are your own! Keep loving them, love them with all your heart. But love them as the unique person occupying a unique moment in their lives. And most importantly, leverage all of your influence to build bridges, not just to Jesus, but back to their families and to the church, so that, by God's grace, they may come to know and love Jesus throughout their entire lives!