#6: Relationships > Programs. When I began student ministry I had ideas but many times they were just that, ideas! In any ministry context there are certain aspects that require programming. Setting up a scheduled time to worship, train leaders and have events. What I learned is that people hunger for relationship. More importantly, a relationship with Jesus Christ. My understanding of student ministry was to make sure all of my plans, schedule and program was spotless. My mentality was based on what I perceived from other ministries, conferences, books and blogs. What I easily missed was building relationships with the students. I missed the very people because I was busy establishing a "program." As a leader in ministry, our desire should be to meet people at their point of need with the love of Christ. Programs are simply a facilitator to gospel-centered relationships. The program is simply a tool. The only way to make a lasting impact on a person is to build a relationship that is based on how Jesus build relationships. He built relationships with those who the culture deemed "invisible." Jesus applied grace to those who followed Him because He knew who they would become was more important than their current identity. I don't remember Jesus counting the disciples? Jesus was invested in the relationship more than their performance.
I have missed this principle many times. I remember trying to apply the same approach to each student expecting the same results. The key is building a relationship that builds a bridge to their soul. Everyone is different but they all have the same needs: Salvation, love, acceptance, belonging, grace, encouragement, hope and trust (to name a few).
Know what is happening in their lives. In order to lead people, we must get to know each person's personality and background. What might work for one student, might not work for another due to their expectations. I have come back to this same principle now over seven years later. Why do some students lose their passion? What do we do when students lose heart because of unwise decisions that keep them captive?
Relationship matters more than church attendance and their performance. I have missed this principle many times in ministry. We have high standards for our students because we love them. What we have to realize is that our love for them must be filled with grace. Challenge them, but not always. Pray for them.
If our "programs" have good numbers but the students are not growing in their relationships have we missed it? The same applies in other areas of the church:
- If the gospel is only shared during the sermon, the church is missing the point of evangelism.
- If the Bible is only read in the sermon or small groups, the church has missed the point of spiritual growth.
- If the only time we pray is at dinner, we have missed the point of relationship with God.
God is not impressed with our slick programs, funny videos and current worship songs. God wants us to be a bridge in order to extend His redemption story into their lives. I pray our relationship with God will overflow into the hearts of those we serve. Let it be more about the relationship with others than the performance of a program.
Is it more about the program or relationship? What are your thoughts?
It is important to remember that meeting people at their point of need is crucial in today’s culture. People want to see results more than information when we talk about God. Without the truth of God there is no reason to be “incarnational” in our approach to evangelism in the world. It is not an “either/or” but important to be clear about the truth of Jesus and His Word. If we continually share the gospel with an unbelieving world, we must model a servant’s heart. The connection between information and example is that God’s Word is real, alive, and life-changing. I heard a quote from my apologetics course this past week said, "You can love someone to Hell." Being willing to share Christ is the ultimate revelation of love for another person. The church needs to be focused upon disciples who make disciples.
We must be counter-culture in our approach to speaking with people and following the Holy Spirit’s leading. We are called by God to be, “in the world, but not of the world.” The daily life of a believer must reveal the heart of Christ. We must move from the “head” (information) and let God’s Word move us to the "heart" (action) of sharing our faith.
My prayer is that God would use me and those I influence to lead many to know Christ!