Before you read this post, please click here to check out the infograph Aaron Helman posted at Smarter Youth Ministry.
First off, if Smarter Youth Ministry isn’t one of your youth ministry blogs you check out regularly, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Aaron Helman is awesome, and he has some of the most practical blog posts to implement in your ministry. In my opinion, he is the Houdini of youth ministry!
Secondly, wow! Did you see those numbers? I talked to Aaron and 289 people participated in that survey, myself included. If you’re like me, you probably felt a swift punch to the gut. After you caught your breath, you decided to figure out a way to change the statistics and spend more time with your students.
After I started contemplating how I could spend more times with my students, two observations came to mind. (1) I have no more time to spend with my students. Like every other youth worker in the world, I’m already overworked. Trying to spend more time with my students means I will move into a new category of overworked youth pastors. (2) There is a cost to spend more time with my students. If I spend more time with my students, it will cost me:
- Time with my wife and daughter.
- Time preparing a message from God’s word.
- Time equipping leaders.
- Time for homework (I know this doesn’t apply to everybody, but there are those who are like me, that like to torture themselves with education).
- And the list goes on.
Yet, at the same time, I realized I’m not the only one being affected by this. If I spend more time with my students, than it cost them their time as well:
- Time to have a sit-down dinner with their family.
- Time to have a meaningful conversation with their sibling, mom, or dad.
- Time to do homework.
- Time to sleep, because we all know how little sleep they’re getting now.
- And their list goes on as well.
As I thought about this, I started to understand students are just like us. They have a full-time job (education, which works them overtime), a family life to balance, relationships to keep up with, and a God they want to worship. They find their time just as valuable as we find ours. Moreover, we work within a system that does not allow us to have more time. They are in school during the day, and they just can’t skip. So that means we are the ones who will have to do something, but obviously, we can’t spend all eight hours of our day or every lunch time at their school. Its enough to make us throw our hands in the air in frustration.
Yet, maybe we’re looking at our time and their time the wrong way. If our hands are tied by the quantity of time we can spend with our students, then maybe there’s something we can do with the quality of time we spend with them?
That is where I believe we need to start focusing our efforts. Lets be honest with ourselves: How often are we talking about Christ or checking in on our student’s spiritual development outside of bible study? Are we waiting for them to share what God is doing in their life, or are we being proactive about asking them? The odds are we’re not doing so well, and we need to start examining the conversations we’re having with them.
Now, this doesn’t mean we go to the extreme and talk about Jesus all the time. There’s still room to talk about the latest YouTube video, book they’re reading, or argue about who’s going to win the next game; however, what this does mean is we may need to pull back on those conversations to make more room for Jesus. We have to remember, we set the standard for the relationship we have with our students. If all they want to do is talk about everything but Jesus with us, then maybe it might be because we’re not having enough of the right conversations with them. Our students need to know our number one concern is about how they are growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ, because we know how much that affects everything else in their lives.
In the end, God has allotted us with only a certain amount of time during the day, and there’s nothing we can do to gain more or get back the time we have. Yet, God has given us the responsibility to know how to use our time in a redemptive manner. He has equipped us with everything we need to make the most of our time with the students we are responsible for. Redeem the time, because that may be the difference between a shallow and deep relationship our students will have with Christ.
Are your conversations more about Christ or everything else?
Do you believe the quality of our time will make a difference, and if not, what do you believe will?
Joshua Fuentes is the Student Minister at Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, TX, and works with both youth and college students. Josh has been working in student ministry for six years, and has experience as an intern, bi-vocational, and full-time student minister. He has been married for five years and has a beautiful four year old daughter. Currently, Josh is attending seminary at the South Texas School of Christian Studies and writes on his blog at millennialchristianity.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFuentes85