I was recently at a student ministry beach night and I got to talking with a dad who was hanging out with us. I had seen him and his family around our church for a few years but I hadn’t yet gotten to know them. As we talked about life, jobs, ministry, and family, I asked him, “What made you guys land at our church?” He looked at me and said, “You’re looking at it!” He went on the talk about all of the students and families who were at the event and involved and he was excited about the opportunity for their kids to be a part of a community like the one we have.
What I want to do for a few minutes is to make sure that you realize that what you do matters. What you do, what you give to students and families in your community and your church matters, and it matters a lot. As you do this ministry, as you spend time with students and encourage them and challenge them and love them through difficult situations and circumstances, I know that it can be easy to wonder “what in the world am I doing here?” and “does it even make a difference?” Believe me, there have been times when I have wondered if the students I was investing in ever heard a word I said.
Like a lot of you who are parents, during “normal life” I am in in and around parents and I hear stories. I hear some stories about our church’s programs and events, but I most often hear names. I hear names of staff and small group leaders who are spending their time investing in the lives of students. When people talk about the ministry we do, they really talk about people and relationships. They talk about you.
They talk about how much you mean to their kids and they talk about how important it is for their kids to be influenced by you.
I think during the current season we are in, a season of confusion, of frustration, where teenagers kind of don’t really know what’s going on, where they live in a world where months ago things all of a sudden got shut down and now things are kind of opening up (but they are still kind of shut down) – who knows, right?
Students have been through a season where they’ve seen more and more adults in the world bickering and arguing about politics and race and statues and the police and about gathering and masks. As they watch it all unfold on their device, they don’t know what to think.
And then there’s YOU. You, in your relationship with them, you get to bring the calm. You get to bring the hope. You get to bring the gospel and you get to have the power of Jesus work through you to impact them in a way that nothing else can.
As I thought about the students who you know, students you’ll get to meet, and students you’ll get to deepen relationships with, remember these things:
Some of them, as I mentioned, are confused, frustrated, sad, and even maybe angry about what is happening in their world. Some of them are going to school in the building, and some of them aren’t. Some of them are playing sports and able to be on their teams, and some aren’t. Some of them are able to be out and around and hanging out with their friends, and some of them aren’t. In the midst of all of that, you get to bring the hope – and that matters!
Students are struggling to connect with people, face to face, maybe because they are scared of the virus and they don’t want to get sick or maybe because they have become so accustomed to life through a screen that they have social anxiety about actually talking to a person. In the midst of all of that, you get to bring the hope – and that matters!
There are students who are struggling with their identity: sexually, socially, in their homes, and they need someone who will love them, listen to them and point them to understanding their identity in Christ. And that matters!
There are students who don’t know what it looks like to be an adult and live a life of faith because they’ve never seen anyone actually do that, and they need someone modeling that for them and that can be you – and that matters!
There are students who have lost hope in the world, in the adults around them, and in their future.
When I think about what you get to do, I think of a few pieces of scripture and a story:
II Corinthians 5:
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The Starfish Story
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
You guys are making a difference. I speak for hundreds and thousands of parents when I say, “Thank you!” the investment you are making because it matters and it really does make a difference!