Hopes and Dreams for our Student Ministry

we have an amazing publication that goes to our church body once a month and i got to write an article about student ministries for the month of february. thought it was good content to share on the blog - its long… so i give you permission to skim read! enjoy.

In my short twenty-two years of life I have fallen in love with the demographic we call teenage girls. I have loved walking alongside and mentoring many young woman and I am so humbled and blessed that I get to do this full time working in student ministries. The main reason why I love this age so much is because of my personal walk through middle and high school. I was at an age where I wanted to be loved and cherished more than anything. I wanted to fit in, to have the right friends, to matter. I wanted to matter. It’s a pretty vulnerable state to be in and one where someone or something can easily shape the next season of your life.

Looking back, I realized that if the Lord isn’t the one defining me in those vulnerable situations then someone and something else is; the world. We all know how the world tells teenage girls to act, behave and think and if you’ve been walking with the Lord for any amount of time you know that anything the world offers us in the end leaves us empty and broken.

I had a pretty solid relationship with Christ through my high school years but boy o boy did I struggle with what God thought of me. I didn’t know what the bible said about who I was in Christ and I didn’t know how to fully walk in my God given calling to go and make disciples. I wrestled (can I be honest and say sometimes I still do?) with practically walking out what God thinks of me and hearing what the world wants me to say and do.

I am super passionate about seeing a generation of women (and men) know what God says of them, what their purpose in life is (glorify Him and make disciples) and then to be able to confidently live it out. Working with young girls in South Africa for a year, to spending six summers working at camp living with high school students and now being on staff working in student ministries my heart cry has only deepened and I thank God for that.

So how does this practically look in student ministries at Emmanuel? I am all about practical thinking so lets dig a bit deeper into my thoughts!

First, I’ve realized that if I don’t spend time in the word of God and know what it says of me then I can’t let God’s word define me. It’s impossible to walk out God’s promises when I don’t even know what God has promised me in the first place. This is the first step for us in our student ministries here at the church. We want the students who go through “our program” to know their bible. It’s the first and most important step. How can they confidently go and make disciples in their schools when they don’t even know that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them, for example? It’s scary for Mark and I to talk to so many teenage Christians who never read their bible or know what is says. This breaks our hearts and the Lord has given us such a passion for the students of Emmanuel to know their bible and how it actually applies to their lives.

Secondly, what I realized is that you can’t just read God’s word on Sunday, attend bible camp, or go to the cool retreats and conferences. The world is sending messages and defining us all day long so only letting Christ work through you once a week isn’t enough. It’s just not good enough. This is something I personally struggled with so much through middle and high school. I attended all the church functions but during the week my friends told me that I needed to do “x” to get this guys attention and I needed to loose “x” weight to look prettier. When I wasn’t hearing and knowing what God thought of me all week long, I would unknowingly try to fit God’s word and the world’s advice together and obviously that failed me. So my second hope for our student ministries is not only that the students would know their bibles but actually want to read them throughout the week knowing that that is their daily bread and source of life.

Third, it has to be real to the students. It can’t be my faith that they believe, their parents faith, pastors faith, insert whoevers faith; it must be theirs. When working at a Christian camp with Christian teenage girls this was one of the most frustrating conversations I would have. They believe things about God because their parents told them, or their friends, but they don’t believe it for themselves. We know that so many teens fall away from God once they leave for college or move out and we know that is what they are up against. But I believe, that if a student knows their bible, reads it often and knows how it applies to their life that their faith will survive. Why? Because it’s real to them. They can look back on their life and pinpoint where the scriptures convicted them, encouraged them, where they practically saw God show up etc. Mark spends a lot of time at the end of our bible studies asking how it really applies to our lives. Yes, we just spent an hour reading our bible- but so what? If you can’t make sense of what was just read and apply it to your life, in middle or high school then it won’t transform you more into Christ. It has to be real. This is something where I can’t force a teenage girl or boy to make it real, so I get down on my knees and pray that Spirit would do what He can only do and make it real. I can trust God’s word and know that the bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) to make it real to the students.

I am reminded every Tuesday and Thursday when we open up the cafĂ© for the high school students how conceited the world is. How the grade 11’s wont talk to the grade 9’s and when those students come others won’t because they aren’t cool. My list goes on and on but you get the point. However, I know that behind the crop tops, swear words, iphones and social status they are young men and woman looking to be loved, and wanting to matter. I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to love them like Jesus and share the gospel with them. Can I be honest with you? Most times I am terrified what these students must think of me and how I am going to connect with the student in pj pants who smells like weed. It’s uncomfortable and awkward to walk into the room and try to start a conversation with a bunch of grade ten girls. But knowing that the Lord adores the student who smells like weed and the grade ten girls gives me the confidence to boldly share the gospel because I know its what will give them real life, purpose and matter eternally. I am not perfect, but by reading and knowing God’s word more, I know more what He is thinking and it fuels a passion in me to give the students something real.

Would you pray for me for more boldness to speak life to these students and pray that the students who come into Emmanuel’s Student Ministry program would know their bibles and be confident to live that out in this hurting world. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my story and heart for the student ministries here at Emmanuel.

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