When I was 15, my dad was candidating at a church to be their Sr. Pastor, and I remember that on our family visit to the church they had me sit in on the Youth Group to experience what could potentially be the group I would be attending. I remember the Youth Pastor saying something that stuck with me for a long time, and it’s something I know at times I have repeated, and you may have heard from others and said yourself as well. What he said was this:
“My dream is to raise up students who go into youth ministry and replace me.”
And that’s a great dream, a great goal to strive after as we build up student leaders and mentor those who start to feel a call to ministry.
But I think there is a danger in setting that as the only goal for student leadership, because it can far too easy to start to think every student who starts showing leadership, initiative, or slight calls to ministry needs to go to christian college and study to be a minister in some way, shape, or form.
For me, this didnt really hit home until this past summer, when I got to attend Willow Creek for 4 months and sit in on their Sr. High services for many of those weeks. It was nothing that any of the speakers said, but two girls who had gotten up to give a testimony of how one had brought the other to church and she had gotten saved and started attending a small group. Something about their story instantly hit me that the Student Pastors weren’t investing in their students to become Youth Pastors or Sr. Pastors, but were more focused on every student understanding that no matter what they did in their life, they were called to the Lord’s service.
I believe we do a great disservice to our students when we lead them to believe that a “good” Christian is one who wants to go into ministry, and it’s something we can so easily do without realizing we have created that type of environment. Yes, God calls Missionaries and Youth Pastors and Sr. Pastors, but he also calls Engineers, Principals, Teachers, Nurses to be ministers in their fields.
And I know, it’s something we all know, and we all preach. But it was a lesson I took home to be extremely intentional on not focusing on just the vocational ministry training for student leaders, but truly being Gospel Centered in everything our Student Ministry does.