It has been a powerful two days at the youth pastor summit. It is a free event put together by numerous sponsors but spearheaded by Jay Strack and the SLU ministry! I was able to take my friend and small group leader, Chris McCall to the conference. It is my third time attending and it is the best student pastor conference. It is more evangelical, biblical, and relevant than other conferences I've attended (and others cost a lot!) Here are some highlights and thoughts from the conference:
Francis Chan brought a powerful message from God about the struggle of "American" Christianity in comparison to the persecution happening in China and India. The mention of the ministry called "Gospel for Asia" highlighted the leader, KP Yohannan who has led many to Christ. The message helped me realize that the "American cultural Christianity" is not biblical. The Christians who are persecuted have a better understanding of Christianity than we do! I pray this truth leads me to action in my own life to be counter-culture for God's glory.
Dave Edwards Questions to ask yourself in student ministry: "What are you doing in student ministry? Be specific." "Why am I doing with it?" (Motivation) "What do I want them (students) to know?" (Focus on the cross, Identity in Christ, Scripture and the church). If I don't know the answers to these questions, how do I expect my leaders to know. Equip people with a growing understanding of scripture! When God's Word is taken out of Student Ministry: (1) We get scammed. (2) We rely on our senses (it turns into mysticism, emotion based, universalism, slippery slope of liberalism). (3) We reject following the Holy Spirit's leading from Scripture (results in constant trouble).
Jeff Lovingood (Long Hollow BC) had some great insights into balancing events and incarnational ministry. It was interesting to hear the responses from the people in the room. Some were critical of events but the session helped us understand that events help reach the lost but relationships are how the person comes to know Christ and grow to become like Christ. It is to move away from the "extremes" of hyper-fast paced student ministry and on the other hand the "us four no more" and "holy huddle" mentalities. It is all about equipping leaders to invest in students! "Don't undersize your youth volunteer leaders." Lead the volunteers to buy into the "why" more so than the "how." It is to help the volunteers see themselves as shepherds of their small group and to continually pour God's Word into their lives.
Dave Ferguson emphasized the importance of helping students understand the heart and person of Jesus. "Always ask the question, how has this passage of scripture changed me before I teach it." Wow! How many times have I finished a message and have not truly wrestled with it prior to teaching the students to apply it. Always point students to the heart of Christ so that they see His compassionate, patient and loving character in scripture. The question was posed, "Do people still encounter the person of Jesus." We all replied, "yes!" But how many students see Jesus interceding on their behalf (Romans 8:34) and has compassion for us! (John 11:35). It is much more than believing the right things, but having a deep and close relationship with Christ.
The movie "Courageous" was promoted and I am excited about having a family movie event in September when it comes out!
Overall, God confirmed in my heart that His Word must be the foundation, filter and formation of student ministry. God's Word is alive and active! My role is to help students become "Self-feeders" that will continually grow and make disciples. Relationships are what provide the anchor for God's Word to impact lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Invest through relationships and equip them to be leaders for Christ!