No 2 students are the same.
Chris shows up just because his girlfriend is there.
Jessica comes just because her parents make her.
Brandon is there just because he wants to study the Bible.
Lisa shows up just because she loves to sing worship music.
Jonathan comes just because he always has.
Peter is there just because he has fun.
Demarland is always around just because he has nowhere else to go.
Christy is there just because she has always felt loved there.
Encouraging students to move towards Jesus or deeper in Jesus is a value of every student ministry. Different students show up at different points in their spiritual journey. That can make it difficult to plan and program.
Maybe you have students who have never heard the clear gospel. There may be students who have been hurt by church and have a deeper cynicism towards faith. Or maybe there are students who are growing and are hungry for the Word. All of us have students who attend church just because their parents make them or they feel it's their religious obligation.
How do we "accept every student where they are and help them move closer to Jesus"?
Of course, the solution is always to connect students in relationship with Godly adults and students but with so much diversity how do we make sure students have the greatest opportunities to move forward in their faith?
Here are 5 thoughts...
Provide Diverse Gathering Opportunities
No 2 pieces of programming should look the same. Most committed students will only give 2 to 3 time slots to your ministry a week. Make sure those gatherings have specific purpose and goals in mind. In other words, avoid having the same programming 2 different times a week.
Know Your Target Audience
Do you have space in your programming for students who have the time and desire to invest in their spiritual life? Do you have a gathering that is designed to engage the friends of your students? Sure, all that we do can impact most of our students, but having a focus will insure we are being sensitive to the issue of spiritual diversity.
Offer Different Size Gatherings
For some students a large group gathering is where they are comfortable "kicking the tires" and testing the waters of church. For others it may be a relaxed small group gathering that allows time to have honest safe discussion about God and faith. Thinking through "large, mid sized, or small" gatherings will insure more students get and stay connected.
Create A Diverse Adult Leadership Team
Some adult leaders are naturally drawn towards the unchurched, others want to take students deep in Bible study. Some adult leaders are athletic while others may love music or technology. Know the hearts of your leaders and place them appropriately. This should also be on your mind when thinking through who to recruit for next fall.
Make "Acceptance" A Core Value
In our church setting we feel the need to serve all our students and their friends. Our desire is to see each student through the eyes of compassion and accept them where they are. This sometimes gets messy but we believe it's the way Jesus sees us. To be honest, sometimes it's easier to love the student far from God than the one who grew up in church, however we're called to accept each of them where they are and point them to Jesus.
May we serve in ministries that recognize the diversity and value of each student. Let's plan and pray that our ministries reflect this desire.