Matt: As student ministry leaders we play an important role in helping students to develop their faith. A couple of things I’ve learned over the years are that when that faith grows at too rapid of a pace, it’s more subject to burn out and die. By the same token, if it grows too slow then it’s easier for students not to take some important steps in their faith and continue growing, it’s easy to backslide into old ways and habits.
I look at faith as growing like a mushroom or growing like an oak tree. If it grows like a mushroom, which only takes a couple of days to grow, it will usually have a short life span, it will be really flashy for a short time and then it goes away, and usually the student goes away from your youth group and you wonder what happened. Their faith should grow like an oak tree which can literally take 200 years to grow. It grows and grows and you constantly see the growth and change in that student. Here are some things to remember:
- Saying a complete yes to Jesus, means saying no to a lot of things, we need to help guide students in this area. We need to help them see the big picture and not focus on the immediate temporary gratification that sin brings.
- Help your students find ways to stretch and grow their faith, such as serve projects, finding opportunities for them to reach out to their friends and invite them to church, or a fun event your church is putting on.
- Be available to them when they are in a weak moment, let them know you’re there to turn to for help.
Steven: This idea of a flashy, fast-growing faith and a slower, more grounded faith isn’t anything new. Jesus actually talked about this exact same thing in Matthew 13:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:3-8)
There are a lot of things we can take away from this parable, but here are some things about growing students:
- Don’t rush it. It’s tempting to do a huge push for getting students to start a relationship with Jesus and then drop the ball. I have definitely been an offender of this rule.
- Always follow up. This is one of the greatest things you can do to keep your students growing steadily, but it also takes the most time. If you’re committed to students’ growth, you need to check in with them consistently.
- Build them up to go against what the world says and does. We don’t want our students’ faith to be “choked” by the thorns. Build them up to know that Christians are to be counter-cultural.
This faith-buildings is super important, but we have to get the timing right. Not too fast like a mushroom–slow, steady and secure like an oak tree.