The third question that must be asked is, “What is real.” This question is on the minds of today’s students. The one issue that is keeping many ministries stagnant or dead is the lack of leaders being real. Doug Fields in "First Two Years in Youth Ministry" explains it this way, “If you pretend to be something that you are not, it is dishonest, hypocritical, and damaging to students because they will eventually find out the truth.” Students are dying for a caring environment that meets them at their point of need. Authentic relationships are the key to successful ministry and will produce servants of Jesus. Jonathon McKee says, “he often met people’s physical needs first, which opened the door to meeting their spiritual needs. Jesus was a master at relational evangelism: building a relationship, developing trust, and earning the right to be heard.” Student ministry must answer the questions that students are seeking.
Meeting students at their point of need is being relevant, it does not mean leaving out the Word of God, but dropping critical attitude and tradition. The emphasis is upon loving people enough to hear them out and build a lasting relationship. In the book "Being Leaders" it says, “Godly character is the foundation for Christian leadership, the essential qualifying element. Because it earns people’s respect and, most important, produces trust, character is the most crucial factor in relationships.”
Methods must change in order to reach this generation of teenagers who base their decisions and lives on feelings and peer pressure. Richard Dunn explains, “communion with a God who can do what they can not do for themselves: provide ultimate love, hope and meaning in a world littered with the residue of religious disillusionment.” Student ministry must be a place of safety, love, and acceptance. An environment of openness will help lead people to life-change.
Reaching this generation for Jesus has to be rooted in the truth of the gospel. Students are looking for authenticity from trusted leaders. Mike Yacconelli states, “When we treat people as individuals, we are not only treating them as authentic people and being authentic ourselves, we are showing that Christ is authentic.”
Authenticity must be exemplified to impact students for a lifetime of serving Christ. Authentic, relational ministry is the wheels that student ministry must ride on to be effective in the long run.
Doug Fields - Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry
Dustin Malphurs - Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership