Many students today are asking the question,“what is real.” The one issue that is keeping many ministries stagnant or dead is the lack of leaders being authentic. Doug Fields 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” (Fields “First 2 Years 2002, 93). Student ministry must develop a place that students are accepted and encouraged to be open about life. This quote explains Jesus’ heart, “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” (McKee 2004, 65).
The key to connecting with today's student is to ask questions about their beliefs and give them a chance to share their issues. Meeting students at their point of need is dropping all attitudes of coldness and tradition in order to listen. Leadership in student must exemplify this statement, “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” (Malphurs 2003, 56).
Methods must change in order to reach this generation of students who base their decisions and lives on feelings and peer pressure. Students desire this in today’s culture, “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” (Dunn “Shaping”, 36). Youth group must be a place of safety, love, and acceptance. It must remain this way to have an environment that will encourage openness and life-change. Postmodern value is based on experience and relativism. This quote explains, “People want to see faith, not just hear about it. Our culture is visually driven; giving us a perfect opportunity to show them that Christ is alive is by our actions” (relevantmagazine.com). Relativism permeates itself through high schools in America and further strengthens itself in college culture.
In order to engage the culture, student ministry should come along side teenagers who are struggling in this pluralistic society. Students are looking in all areas for direction and fulfillment. This should be found in the local church. Christians can no longer put their heads in the sand of condemnation, but respond as Jesus did with the outcast Zaccheus in the Jewish community by saying in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Jesus’ heart is to see His prize creation become redeemed through His blood on the cross.
The cry of the hearts of students is for authenticity from trusted leaders. In Mike Yacconelli’s said, “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” (Core Realities of YM, Yacconelli 44). Authenticity in Jesus must be exemplified in student ministry to affect life-long change. Relational ministry is the wheels that student ministry must ride on to be effective in the long run.