I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16
As I was reading 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 today I had some very convicting thoughts regarding the role of youth ministers and leaders. As we are a part of students’ lives are we just leaders in another “institution” that serve as teachers or guidance counselors or are we fathers (and mothers) in Christ through the gospel? Can we call the students we lead to imitate us?
This conviction of the Holy Spirit led me to think of two very overused buzzwords: Missional and Incarnational. But another word that came to my mind was:Enduring.
When I say missional I think of it as a characteristic of the universal church in that “its being is identified as that which turns upward, outward, and downward in communion with God, its own members, and the world” (Harper & Metzger 2009:237). When I say incarnational I think of the life-on-life sacrificial ministering to those in our care. When I say enduring I think of long lasting, steadfast, stick-to-it-ness.
I mean that our attitude should be missional, our ministries incarnational, and the impact we have enduring past the middle and high school years that we spend with students. We must also impart these “elements” to those we minister. Last year I sat at the Kaleo conference listening to Dr. Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute speak about the loss of high school students in the church after graduation. I have seen this statistic played out amongst my own friends that I went to youth group with, and amongst those I have had the privilege of ministering to.
I don’t want to be just a spiritual “guidance counselor”, I want to be a father through the gospel to the students that I disciple, minister, and share my life with. I cannot call students to imitate me if I have not lived a credible Christian life of discipline, repentance, faith, hope, and love inside and outside of their presence. I desire to be used by God and to impart destiny and a strong foundation in Christ for students and people who desperately need to be transformed by Jesus and his gospel.