I want my students to like me! I really do. I hope to gain the trust, confidence, and “right” to speak into the lives of my students about important spiritual matters, but I realize that doesn’t come free. Hanging out with them at Sonic after school, going to eat chicken rings with them at their school lunches (how in the world does chicken become rings?), attending their choir concerts, talent shows, band recitals, and athletics events are all ways that I can show my students that I care about my relationship with them. Depending on the depth of those relationships and the number of students in my ministry, I could spend countless hours growing these relationships. It costs a lot of time for me to show my students that I truly care about their lives.
But is that enough? Is it enough for me to care about the lives of my students and have them be aware of it? Allow me to answer my own question…that depends on what I believe God has actually called me to do. All of those activities may be enough if God has called me to be a mentor or to develop moral people. You mean to tell me that you can sacrifice all of those hours outside of your “office hours”, away from your family, listening to some pretty amateur band music, and cheering on your freshman boys in a basketball game that ends in 14-12, and that still may not be enough. The problem is that God has called us to guide our students spiritually, not simply influence their life. God has called us to pastor/shepherd our students’ spirits. To guide their spirit means much more than spending quality time with them. Don’t get me wrong, quality time is important and necessary, it’s just not enough.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Psalm 19:7 Our students’ souls need constant revival. That revival cannot come from our relationship with them; they need spiritual revival and growth that is only found in His revealed Self, found in his Word. Shepherding our students requires us to understand and completely surrender to the fact that their relationship with God is infinitely more important than their relationship with me. They don’t NEED to know me, they NEED to know God. Their relationship with God is not found in the number of hours that you spend during a given week developing a relationship with your students; it is found in the number of hours that your students spend in their Bible learning about their God. The way for them to know God is to know his Word. Knowing God leads to life transformation and revival.
Let’s face it, how many of your students maintain a close relationship with you five years after they leave your ministry? Statistics (a student pastor’s worst nightmare) suggest that many of our students not only dissolve their relationship with their student pastor after leaving the student ministry, they dissolve their entire relationship with God. The purpose of this article is not to figure out all of the dynamics at work that explain that trend, however it points back to the foundational question, what is enough? The key to developing students that are more likely to maintain their relationship with the Lord is to develop Bible-hungry students through a Bible-hungry student ministry.
A Bible-hungry student ministry cannot exist without a Bible-hungry student pastor. I know there are thousands of things that compete for your time. There are always notes to write, emails to send, students to disciple, and meetings to attend; however, a student pastor’s time with the Lord in his Word is critical. The model that you set for your students is determined by what you value. Make sure to set a high value on your daily consumption of God’s Word. “More desirable than gold, than much fine gold. Sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
Expository teaching ensures that a student’s relationship with God through his Word is emphasized as greater than a student’s relationship with their student pastor. Simply put, expository teaching is the careful drawing out of the exact meaning of a passage in its original context leading to contemporary application. Instead of brainstorming a topic and finding a passage that speaks to what you are attempting to communicate, expository teaching uses the text of the Scripture to drive the series of lessons. By allowing the text to drive the series of lessons you are allowing God to speak using the structure of his Word, not your creativity to think up topics that the students need to hear. This type of teaching also teaches your students to learn to study the Bible for themselves. Just like you would not encourage your students to flip open to a random verse and apply it without studying its context, don’t model that wrong behavior in your method of teaching!
“God’s Word is vital in developing an on-going relationship with Him.” Don’t just tell it to your students, model it for them.
Tony Richmond is the High School/College Student Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller.