A Few Things Christians Teens Need To Stop Doing
I've been in student ministry for a while now but whether you're a lifetime student pastor or a parent volunteer for a month, it's safe to assume there's some trends in student ministry that are kind of scary. For some time now I've wrestled with some of the biggest hang ups Christian students are facing. Here's a few thoughts:
Stop Trying To Emulate What You See
It's a tough thing to live out what John 17 says about being in the world but not belonging to it, especially for a student trying to find their identity. After all, it's the nail that sticks out that gets hammered, right? I understand you want to be liked and accepted but at what cost? Mark asks us, "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) I'll be the first one to tell you I love a good parody or satire but what has happened is there's a Christian subculture of mimicking clothing, videos, music, etc to look like everyone else. You weren't made to look like everyone else, you were made to look like Christ. Remember, you were "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20) and a high price it was.
Stop Tiptoeing That Purity Line
I think this idea is directly connected to the previous one in the ideas of what is right and what is wrong. It's not God's goal that you remain abstinent until you're married but to live a life of purity your entire life. Some don't tiptoe the line, they play jumprope with it. Too many times the question is asked, how far is too far. That's the wrong question for seeking to live a pure life. Once that question is asked purity is not the goal. Purity is "how far away from the resemblance of sin can I stay?" God isn't some cosmic kill-joy trying to rob you of fun, he's trying to give you a life of blessing beyond belief and to protect you from heartache and pain. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
Student ministry over the years has waved the abstinence banner without giving a good understanding to why. I'm very thankful to see some shifts beginning to occur in that regards but we still have a fight ahead of us. Pursue purity with all that you are. There's a great reward for it!
Stop Saying How "Stressed Out" You Are
Most teens don't have enough life experience to navigate the busy schedules they've placed themselves in (granted, sometimes it's not their decisions). I've also noticed most teens haven't been taught to manage their time well and it seems there are a lot more distractions now than when I was younger. If you're stressed because you're walking in a second period exam that you didn't study for, don't ask for prayer because your stressed that you may fail. Take the grade you earned and navigate your schedule better. We as Christians have the great opportunity to say what we believe (God is bigger and will take care of me, be anxious for nothing, the LORD is my shepherd, etc) or live what we believe. Many are watching knowing what you claim to believe. How is it that you claim God is bigger but worry about many small things. Our problems only look big when we focus on our problems.
Stop Thinking There's Student Ministry And Then There's Church
This one may be on the church more so than students so if you happen to be a church leader reading this, I encourage you to take note. For years now I've heard about the "mass exodus" of students graduating high school and leaving their faith. While that's probably true of some, I think for many they're not leaving their faith as much as leaving their church. Why? Well, they're not connected beyond student ministry. "You stay over there in your room or building while we do 'big church' things" or even worse, you're applauded for going on that mission trip but then ignored when you get back to "normal" life. Student, I understand that sometimes your church doesn't do worship or teaching the way that it appeals to you but I assure you, if God is being lifted up, He's there and is drawing people to Himself. Get engaged beyond your Wednesday night service. Ask where you can serve, help, or get involved. You'll be incredibly glad you did! If the day does come where you go to college elsewhere or move, find a body to get plugged into. As student pastors and leaders, it's our jobs to help raise adults, not children. Connect, there's a lot more for you to learn from people that have done a lot more life than you have.
What do you think are some big hang ups student face? I'd love to hear your feedback. One of the greatest things we can do is partner together for the sake of our students.