Matt: Helping students decide to find their identity in Jesus is one of the most important things we can do as student ministry leaders. When students place their identity in Christ, they don’t live compartmentalized lives. They are not different people depending on who they are hanging out with at the moment. They are a Christian at church as well as at school, with their friends or whatever they are doing. It’s not easy having different identities and trying to separate your life depending on the situation at the moment–I know, I’ve been there. I used to be that guy. When I finally made the decision to be a “Christ follower” all the time was when my spiritual life began to grow and my faith got stronger. I’m not perfect by any means, but I am way more secure in my identity now than I was when I was just a weekend Christian and my faith is much stronger.
When we emulate to students what an identity in Christ looks like, we are helping them develop their spirituality and grow in their faith. When we chose to be in this student ministry game, we all made the choice that we would live our lives to a higher standard. That we would be an example to students and that we don’t say one thing but act another way when we are not around students. In fact, I think students see right through you when that happens and they begin to doubt everything you’re telling them. But when we find our identity in Christ and students see what that life can look like, then we are being true role models and mentors to them. We’re being a “Paul” to a “Timothy,” we’re showing them the way and we’re helping spread and grow Christianity from generation to generation. A concept that we truly believe in.
Steven: Having your identity rooted in Christ is one of the most difficult things for a student (read: anyone) to grasp. Humans are really good at putting our life in different categories depending on who we’re with, and Jesus can be represented in different ways to different people in different circumstances. My hope for the guys I’m with this year is to be able to embrace, or at least have knowledge and awareness of, their identity in Christ in all situations, no matter who they’re with.
As a junior high youth worker, this is one of the most difficult things to teach. 11-13 year olds are in a phase of trying to discover who they’re going to be, how they’re going to act, what kind of friends they’ll hang out with, everything. Their lives are largely determined in these junior high years. Knowing this, identity is a topic that comes up a lot with my students. It’s not just about living a life that is “moral” or “good,” but that you’re a consistent person in what your convictions and values are.
One of the questions I love to ask my students is, “Can people at school tell you’re a Christian by how you’re living your life?” The words at school can be replaced by at home, on the baseball field, at church, etc. Usually, the first time I ask this question to any student in my ministry, the answer is no. The cool part is seeing how that student responds and thinks about how they can change that answer.