Every time a student goes online, leaves the house, is at school, hanging with friends—in fact, every time they pull out their cell phone, western culture is working overtime to shape and influence their lives on every level. No matter how many shelters or training camps we create, we can't prevent it—even if for a time. So what we know about culture and how we teach students is more important than ever.
Discipling our students requires us to be keenly aware of the digital self that lies behind that student who sits every week in the third row, second seat on the left, the student in the front row who has all the answers, or the quiet kid in back row you see once a month. There is a deeper story to our students than most of us ever imagined possible. But the story is told in places some of us never venture to.
It is easy to think of a new generation as somehow being less than the generations before. It is easy to look at students and label them as lazy, unconcerned with the future, unmotivated, not as smart, soft, etc. And over the last year or so, I have read countless articles and plenty of books raising concern about today’s students. Much of it valid and informative about the state of our youth in light of the gospel and the future of Christianity. But I often think it is far too easy to focus in on the negative that we forget about the positive. I sincerely believe there is an incredible hope with the rising generation. Here’s why.
If you are leading anyone, you need to read. It doesn’t matter if you are leading your own kids in your family, a few students, or hundreds of employees. Leaders read — a lot. What if I read non-Christians thoughts about culture, youth, even the church, took their insights and applied it my ministry?
Given the world we are asking our students to step into, it is increasingly critical that we equip the next generation. Our students are not the future of the church; they are the church. There is no better time for them to get the dirt of ministry under their fingernails. But given the large scale challenges our students are facing even to express their faith, the thought of where to begin can be paralyzing. So I started to think through some of the roadblocks that often stand in our way of being effective witnesses of the gospel and how youth leaders and parents can begin to prepare students for the road ahead.