Right now, my sister is at the ACPA Baltimore Convention hanging out with a bunch of colleagues in the field of college personnel. As my sister does, she is live-tweeting much of her experience, and thoughts from the speakers. This afternoon, she posted this little gem, which I assume is straight out of the mouth of a keynote speaker or workshop leader:
It’s so true, isn’t it? Not just in student affairs and the world of college personnel, but just as much so (if not more) in youth ministry. “Don’t expect a student to get into your world until you get into theirs.”
If there is one thing (and rest assured, there’s never just one thing) that I have learned through my experiences in youth ministry, it’s that students don’t naturally gravitate to the church on their own. The youth pastor can have the coolest office in town. The church can have the sweetest youth room in town. But if you aren’t in the world of students, students will never come into your world.
I’ve got to confess, I’ve been failing at this lately. Sure, I could chalk it up to the fact that I only serve at my current church part-time, that I live a half an hour away from the community where the church is located, or the fact that I’m really focused on getting to June 4th (seminary graduation). But the harsh reality is that I haven’t been in the world of my students nearly enough for the past few months.
Youth ministry is mission work–and mission work involves immersing yourself in the culture and community of those you to whom you are ministering. For me, that often means attending athletic competitions, sitting through middle school band concerts, and showing up in the places where students “hang out” on a regular basis.
What are you doing to get into your students’ world?