(Just a few thoughts from a student ministry paper) First of all, Jesus did not have to come to Earth to die for mankind, but He did because of His love for mankind. Jesus had compassion on the people; His ministry was not based on conditions or duty. In Matthew 9:36 is says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (NIV). Is this kind of heart for ministry portrayed in churches today? The reality is that Jesus’ heart broke for the people he healed and ministered too. He did not turn anyone away based upon disease, ethnicity, or any other type of issue. People were important to Jesus no matter what! The word used to describe how Jesus felt about the people was, “a pain that is deep in one’s bowels." Jesus had such compassion for the people that he hurt for them.
Students desire to be heard and known, and without a sense of compassion for them like Jesus, we will neglect the pursuit of Jesus’ heart. The realization of this passage of scripture is that these people were harassed by the world and were helpless to function properly in the world and we in need of a Savior. Relational growth is explained this way, “Jesus’ command was to “make disciples,” and after countless hours of debate among our leadership team we have concluded that discipleship happens most naturally in the context of meaningful relationships” (Stanley “7 practices..”, 91). Jesus shared life with the disciples and this shows that as a leader in student ministry, time must be spent to building intentional relationships.
What is the church doing today to exhibit Jesus’ compassion to the lost? Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Jesus’ ministry to the people was not one of condemnation or judgment, but one of salvation. The church must become active in bringing Christ to people through an active heart of compassion.
Jesus never approached people that did not know Him with a judgmental or condemning Spirit. Just like the verse says, “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15). Sin is what had separated us from a relationship with God and this gap is bridged by the cross. Jesus taught the disciples how to “become fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22). I believe His emphasis was upon a lifestyle of building relationships with people (short and long-term).
He realized their physical needs and healed them and cared for their hurts. He was patient with people who were outcasts. For example, Paul explains Jesus’ heart, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Jesus came to save sinners, even the same people who put Him on the cross and crucified Him. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Students are sinners and in need of Jesus in their life to change them. Jesus loved people first regardless of their response to Him. Shepherding students must be at the heart of leadership in ministry today in order to see Christ glorified.
Student ministry should model the heart of Jesus in all aspects. His response was not the kind of condemnation to sinners, but of compassion for their souls. Every aspect of student ministry should push students toward genuine repentance and faith in Christ.
Jesus’ desire was not fame but explained it this way, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). What is the goal of student ministry in Jesus’ eyes? Is it money, fame, notoriety or job titles? Student ministry must be the driving force of truth that helps students navigate the tough road of adolescence. Success is what the world calls the goal but Christ calls us to be faithful! The disciples were discussing quietly between themselves of who was the greatest among the disciples. Apparently they sought to determine the status of each other and compared themselves. “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). Jesus’ point was not on who was the most qualified, but who was willing to be a servant-leader.
Leadership in Student ministry should be clothed in servant-hearted ministry. Students can see right through a fake approach to reach them with the gospel if the motive is to bolster the leadership instead of glorifying Jesus. Being authentic and real with students comes into play with Christ-likeness in living out servant heartedness, compassion, authenticity, and love. The goal is to help students grow into fully devoted followers of Christ.