We had decent discussion on this, although I would have welcomed far more discussion. My question was whether or not you agree with the statement. It seems that some liked parts of it, and others pointed out a few things that are not so good. Let me attempt to put a few thoughts down. First the positive:
"By focusing on students and helping them become all God wants them to be, student ministry leaders, coming alongside of parents, can help students know God, own their faith, and make their faith known"
- The statement of "coming alongside parents" is very welcome. The sheer acknowledgment of the importance of parents in the lives of students shows a major growth in "cutting edge" student ministry. Finally youth ministries are being encouraged to not only involve parents but assist parents in leading their own children. This is welcome indeed, perhaps we will see less lone ranger youth ministries that are divorced from parents and the local body in which it serves.
- "Owning their faith" is also a pleasing development in student ministries. In years past we would have heard know God and make God known. Of course that "knowing God" step was another way of saying "get saved". So, the principle was "get saved then go get others saved". We have seen the deadly results of this. Students really never got to know God. So, focusing on students owning their faith is welcome.
Now the negative:
- The first four words of this promotional pamphlet, "By focusing on students", tells me that nothing much has changed in "cutting edge" student ministry. Maybe this is being too harsh, if so forgive me. To me, such a statement negates everything they say after it. How do you suggest "coming alongside parents" and still "focusing on students"? Does this mean that you work with mom and dad to make much of their kid? If so, that is idolatry. More than likely it is marrying the old idea (you've gotta focus on the students) with the new--actually classical and biblical--idea (parents are the primary educators of students). What happens in this case is that "coming alongside parents" is given lip service and student minstry continues to focus on students.
- Furthermore, is it really a good idea to "focus on the students"? Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that we should not be concerned for students, that our heart should not beat for students, that we should not love students, that we should "just preach the Word" without looking at the crowd. No, we ought to model Jesus in this regard. He loved people. Paul loved people. Look at Romans 9:1-5. Paul basically said, "I'd go to hell for you". This ought to be our heart. But our focus should not be on those we minister to. Our focus ought to be on God. If our primary driving force is students then do we not by our example neuter everything we tell them about "knowing God, owning their faith, and making God known"? The key to student ministry, as it is with any ministry, is being so enthralled with Jesus that you "struggle with all his energy that he powerfully works" within you. The more the leader (parent or student minister) is enamored with the glory of Jesus Christ the more that will catch.
Until we understand that curriculum, preaching, teaching, missions, fellowship, worship, and anything else you want to add, is to be about proclaiming and relishing in the excellencies of Christ we will continue to be focused on man to the peril of their souls. And I mean giving that more than lip service. I mean what John Owen said "If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us".
I will be blunt. And maybe this is too either/or and it ought to be a both/and. If so, then I deserve the rebuke. But my thought is that we are so entrenched in man-centered semi-Pelagianism that a "both/and" is next to impossible. Simply put, what we need is not Lifeway curriculum to help us get students to know God, own their faith, and make God known. We need student ministers and parents (as well as students) set ablaze by the Spirit of God, and so enamored with Jesus Christ that He bubbles out of us and the fire he has cast in our soul causes sparks to fly onto another so that they too are lit aflame by our glorious God.
Perhaps that is what it means to Know, Own, and make Known. But it doesn't happen by focusing on students. It happens by focusing on Jesus.