The post below is a selection of highlights from a breakout I got to teach about the “missional culture of the Students@FBK”. I consider it an immense privilege and blessing to serve with the student ministry at FBC kettering every week. As I share my heart below you will begin to discover why I am so passionate about Jesus and desire for every student to be discipled, fall deeply in love with Jesus, and have repeated opportunities to go on mission and “Be the church!”
My Story of Falling in Love with Jesus
I was saved from a life of alcohol, drugs, sex, and paying child support at the age of 4. That is my story. Trust me, I know my flesh and where I was headed. And I say that because Ephesians 2 tells me and after years of walking with Jesus I have witnessed the wickedness of my own heart.
I was saved at the age of 4 as a church kid. But it was at the age of 18 that I understood the truths I am writing about today. It was at the age of 18 that I had my (mid life) God crisis and laid down my life in full surrender to Jesus. That itself was a work of God as I was held back a year from graduation, and was on a student retreat where the pastor challenged us in response to the Gospel of God; to pour out our lives for the mission of God.
Looking back I now know that between the age of 4 and 18 God was drawing me in. Pursuing my rebellious heart. And preparing me for the moment where I would get it. That my salvation at the age of 4 was for something. And I am writing this today because I want others to get it.
I want people to fall deeply in love with Jesus and by His grace be set free to follow Him forever! To live on mission! #LifeOnMission
We Go Because He Came
“In the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Matt Emmons, American sport shooter, was on his way to his second gold medal of the games. He needed to post a score of 7.2 in order to take home the gold, and his lowest score to that point was a 9.3. He had it in the bag. As he took aim on his last shot, he pulled the trigger and recorded a perfect bull’s-eye. The only problem was that the target he hit was not the target in his designated lane. Matt’s bull’s-eye was on the wrong target, and instead of claiming his second gold medal of the games he slipped to eighth place in the event.”
“In order to have a healthy student ministry, you need to be aimed at the right target” (p.5-6 Trueblood, Student Ministry that Matters). This is true for anything in life. If you want to get things done you need to know what and why you are doing it.
So if our what/target is mission then it is imperative that we also define our “WHY.” Because “When you know your why, your what has more impact because you are walking in or towards your purpose” (Michael Jr.). So as I think about the why, what, and how of mission we know the answers from God’s word.
- Why mission? – (Jesus modeled it for us and now sends us; Luke 19:10; Philippians 2:5-8; John 20:21)
- What are we doing on mission? – (Living out the Great Commission and declaring His glory among the nations; Matthew 28:18-20 & Psalm 96:3)
- How do we go on mission? – (In the Spirit as witnesses to all people; Acts 1:8)
I could teach on those for a long time. But how does that translate to a student context? And how do we create that missional culture in the Students@FBK? In order to answer those questions we will focus on three specific questions for the rest of this.
- Why go on mission?
- What are we doing on mission?
- and How does Students@FBK go on Mission?
We will start out with answering “why?” Because when the church forgets her why really bad things happen.
Our ultimate why as Christ followers is Jesus. Plain and simple. And our “what” as a student ministry is to make disciples in this generation. But lets dive deeper into why a missional culture for students and the church is so important.
Why go on mission?
Plain and simple. Students are hungry for living with purpose and mission is core to who we are as the Church and people of God.
Ed Stetzer on behalf of LifeWay research stated that “Teens are looking for more from a youth ministry than a holding tank with pizza. They look for a church that teaches them how to live life. As they enter young adulthood, church involvement that has made a difference in their lives gives them a powerful reason to keep attending.”
Our desire as a ministry is to feed that hunger and see students be discipled and fall deeply in love with Jesus. We are after the whole student; Heart, Soul, and Mind in glad surrender to Christ. It is very possible for students to go through church, gain the whole world, and still lose their soul. Because of this we must be intentional about equipping them for real life and pointing them to Jesus and not just the pizza.
But in order to do that we must understand the culture of our students. And who we are called to be as a Church.
Student Culture (The Problem and Potential)
The fastest way to say this is that across the US student ministries like ours are sending their seniors off to college and over 50% will leave their faith before they get their degree. And that is me using the conservative numbers from Barna. Some studies indicate much higher.
This means that if the national average stands, 60 of our 120 students that attend every Sunday morning will not make it. In addition to that ,FBK averages 310 kids and students in our Next Generation (NextGen) ministries every Sunday. If we are lucky we will invest in their lives for 18 years and only 50% will keep the faith past college. This calls for extreme urgency and intentionality in all we do. It also calls for us to hit our knees and pray to the God who is bigger than national averages. Who alone can work and move in the hearts of our kids and students.
Not all of news is bad though. Since those studies have been released many more have been done on why the other 50% stayed. What stuck with them?
Fuller Youth Institute in a project called Sticky Faith with Powell & Clark found three qualities that played a huge part in allowing a student’s faith to stick through college.
- If the student felt equipped for life. – (Only 1 out of 7 church graduates said they felt prepared for what was ahead when they left for college.)
- If they got involved in a church during their first two weeks of college. – (The first two weeks were crucial.)
- And if 5 people intentionally invested in them. – (5 older people mentored them.)
Jon Nielson through The Gospel Coalition wrote a really great piece clarifying three observations about the students who stayed in Church. And they are not surprising.
- They are converted. – (not just good kids with a good heart. They were bearing fruit.)
- They have been equipped not entertained. – (They were serving and involved)
- Their parents preached the gospel to them. – (Faith was a family value.)
Jon finished his article with this statement that I feel captures the heart of this issue.
“This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.”
The Church: A Community on Mission!
If we ever want to have a prayer of influencing the world for Christ we must remember who we are as the Church. We must always remember that “The Church is a community of faith on a mission (1 Peter 2:4-11). And where we forget that really bad things happen.” Many times we start to forget and live like “we’re on a cruise ship. But in reality we’re in a battleship” (Chandler, 11m & 43m). The church is on a mission, and it is way more important than what flavor of ice cream they are serving on deck C3.
Have your doubts? Here is one example of the cruise ship mentality. Church is the only institution where it is socially acceptable to consume copious amounts of content weekly and never put it into action. That would never fly in your workplace, or educational environment. And the sad reality is that in the American church what I have just described above is seen as ok. Normal. We may be praying, waiting, and wasting time filling pews when God has spoken a long time ago and told us to move. How long ago? Just about two thousand years according to my bible.
As a student ministry we believe that just like the Church, students are a community of faith called to be on mission. Now! Why wait? “We need to help them [students] engage in taking the gospel to the nations early and often” (Trueblood p.37). When we don’t do this we are not only missing an opportunity. But we are no longer being the Church. Or at least not the Church I read about in scripture.
What are we doing on mission?
We are living out the Great Commission!
The Students@FBK is about “making disciples of the next generation.” The church of today! That is our “what,” and we discover in Matthew 28:16-20 what that means.
Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission
“16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As I look through this passage I notice the following that is worth taking notice of.
- Worship and Obedience – Disciples obey Christ and worship Him.
- Belief – The disciples believed but some still doubted. Some allow doubts to keep them from Jesus. But a Disciple of Jesus says “I will trust God more than my doubts.” “So pick up your doubts and follow after Jesus” (Jody Martin, 32m50s).
- Go… Make Disciples – As you are going make disciples who are Equipped and Multiplying; 2 Timothy 2:2.
- Teaching all I have commanded – Matthew 22:37-40 tells us all that Christ desires for us in one commandment. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Your primary goal as a disciple maker is to guide the ones you lead to Love God with their everything.
- Jesus is With You – You are not alone in the mission.
What is a Disciple as marked out by FBK?
What we just studied above is the basics of discipleship and the great commission from an important passage of scripture. FBK has combed through the whole of scripture and defined a disciple through the measures you see all over our church. That is why our goal is to disciple our students to…
- Love God’s Word (#WordLover)
- Live by Faith (#FaithWalker)
- Speak about Jesus (#JesusSpeaker)
- Serve Others (#FootWasher)
- Give to Others (#GenerousGiver)
Rick Warren said that “to move people from unbeliever… to missionary…. you must have… an intentional process of Discipleship by which you move people from ‘Come and See,’ to ‘Come and die.’ You must have a process!” (43m; 46m50s)
We believe that is key for the next generation as well and is one of the motives behind our new NextGen structure that we launched last week. We need to have a strategy and “The Next Generation ministry at FBK is a unifying strategy to equip families to make disciples of their kids and students.” We do that by further expanding from our measures into our FBK milestones that mark events and stages of a child’s development from unbeliever to everyday missionary.
FBK NextGen Milestones
- Dedication of Homes – #KneeBender
- Commitment to Truth – #WordLove
- Declaration of Faith – #FaithWalker
- Realization of Identity – #JesusSpeaker
- Commitment to Purity – #RealLifer
- Commitment to Others – #FootWasher
- Dedication to Maturity – #GenerousGiver
But the journey of faith is not without obstacles. Especially for our students in a world of media and instant gratification.
What are the obstacles?
- Time (we don’t have them long) – We have our students for about three hours a week if we are lucky. That is not much. But going on mission is huge and allows us to engage our students and share Life on Life experiences!!
- Attention (Students have so many inputs) – The truth is that “students are going to be transformed into the image they stare at most, and they’re going to stare at something” (Trueblood, p.56). Anybody else thinking phones? As I was doing research I found out that adults spend 10 hours on screens, teens at 9 hours a day, and tweens are on 6 hours a day. And it gets even worse when we put that 9 hours for teens into context. “That’s more time than teens typically spend sleeping, and more time than they spend with their parents and teachers. And the nine hours does not include time spent using media at school or for their homework” (Wallace). #Wow!
- Intentionality (what matters most) – “You will disciple your kids. But will you disciple them to be Christ followers?” (Patrick Stalnaker). Students will follow something. But will they follow Christ? Or will we disciple them to follow sports, vacation, money, or other things? What you will skip church for says way more to your student than what comes out of your mouth.
As students search for what is important the world cannot wait to tell them they are the center of the universe and need to look inside to discover who they are. We believe that is wrong. We want to point them to Jesus as the center and lead them to understand that “True fulfillment is found in sacrifice; true identity is found as we lose ourselves in Christ; and our deepest questions are answered outside of ourselves” (p.50, Life on Mission).
The obstacles are real. But so is our God. So what are we doing on mission? We are living out the Great Commission and stepping up to the plate as we intentionally point students time and attention to Jesus. To what matters most.
How does Students@FBK go on Mission?
Now that we know our why and our what, the how is very easy. Our goal as the student ministry of FBK during missional engagement is the same as our church. To “equip believers to be engaged in sharing Jesus locally and globally.” The word and phrasing may differ for other churches. But I pray the how is the same for yours.
We go under the authority of Jesus, and in the power of the Spirit to the nations. And as leaders our goal on the mission is not to do it for our students, but to do it with them. We equip and empower them to live on mission. The currency of empowerment is clarity and trust (Groeschel, 11m). So as we go on mission we take the lead and then after bringing clarity we step back and trust them as we watch God do amazing things.
Where we Go as Students@FBK on Mission
Below are the places FBK and our Student Ministry currently serve on mission.
- Summer Camp opportunities
- Summer serving options here in Kettering
- National trips:
- International Trips:
- Pachacutec, Peru
- Congo, Africa
Living on Mission
I told you my story at the beginning of this post. I told you that I am so passionate about this because it is a part of my story. But I am just as passionate about it because it is not the story of so many others. As I continue to serve in ministry I am discovering again and again that my story of falling deeply in love with Jesus is a rarity. Rather, the following story is the narrative for many of my friends and the people in our Churches.
“My parents drugged me. Yep, it happened. I was drug to church. Drug to business meetings. And drug to bible study. It was just what we did. Then at age 5, 6, or 7 mom asked me if I wanted to go to hell? Or heaven with mommy and daddy? Easy choice… I got baptized. Participated in VBS, bible studies, youth retreats, and even a few mission trips. I was a good kid and headed off to college.
Once I arrived it did not take long for me to sleep in, make friends with the wrong people, and invest in destructive relationships. I did some things that wrecked my soul, left scars, and could have killed me. Some of my friends did not make it. Now I have a spouse, kids, and we are returning to church because I don’t want the same path for them. Can you reach my kids? Can you help?”
Broken people, and broken families walk into our church every week exhausted from life with the same request. Can you help? Where can I find hope? The result of this narrative is that we have parents sitting in our pews every Sunday who have little to no real relationship with Jesus. And we have their kids in our ministry starving for Jesus. They need the gospel. And they need to invited into a community of faith on mission!
What an opportunity to share Jesus! The real Jesus! The only one who is “big enough to save, strong enough to deliver, and willing to forgive if we will run to Him.” Jesus is the only hope for our church, for parents, and for students.
Paul says in Colossians 2:28-29 “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
For our student ministry it would read like this. “Jesus we proclaim, warning every student and teaching every student with all wisdom, that we may present every student mature in Christ. For this we toil, struggling with all Christ’s energy that he powerfully works within us.”
As I finish up I cannot help but realize. That if we desire to present students mature in Christ, we must be be maturing in Christ. We must be growing in Christ as leaders. We must be Jesus people who live on Mission.
Before we can ever expect to create a missional culture as leaders we must be living missionally. The hard truth is that “You teach people what you know, but you reproduce who you are” (p.100 Wayne Cordeiro, Life on Mission). As student leaders we must be followers of Jesus if we ever stand a chance of discipling our students and inviting them to be transformed by Jesus!
That is why we are about missional culture. Because we are Jesus people. And we go because He came!