Steven: One of the things I’ve found to be difficult in junior high ministry is effectively judging where a student is in their relationship with God. With older, more mature people it’s less of a challenge, but for some reason junior high students are less accessible in this area. I’ve seen this in 2 ways:
- When you ask them where they’re at with God and if they have a relationship with him, they’ll feed you an answer they think you want to hear.
- They don’t really know how to answer the question.
I ran into this situation on Friday night. Our junior high ministry took 3 bus loads of students to CIY’s Believe conference for our winter retreat. At the end of the first night, the speaker gave leaders an opportunity to take a few minutes with each student and talk about their relationship with God and where they land with the whole “Jesus thing.” The first guy I talked to was one of my small group students that I assumed was a Christian based on conversations we’d had in the past. When it came down to it, he couldn’t remember a time when he had given his life to the Lord, and I ended up helping him pray to accept Christ into his heart that night (praise God!).
The second guy I talked to (also in my small group) was in a similar camp. We talked about a few issues he has going on at home, and it led into a talk about his relationship with God and how he thinks it’s going. He said he didn’t really know if he was a Christian or not. Unfortunately we ran out of time to finish the conversation because the band started playing too loud for us to talk, but I told him we would finish the conversation at our group on Tuesday.
I learned that night that we can’t assume anything of our students. I made the mistake of assuming, and all it took was a direct conversation to find out what was really going on in these students’ lives.
Matt: Steven makes some real good points here so I won’t repeat them in my words. I do think this is one area where you need to be careful when you’re dealing with a student who is really not sure how they feel about God in their life and if they are ready to accept Jesus as their savior. I think this is an area where it’s just as easy to say the wrong thing as it it to say the right thing. I would also tell students this is something I can’t tell them what decision to make. I can tell them the decision I would like them to make but what ever decision they come up with has to come from their heart, not mine.
Students do need to realize that they can’t get to heaven on their parents’ faith, this has to be their decision. I can tell them how I feel and I can tell them what they have to do to be saved and show them how simple it is to be saved, but I can’t make the final decision for them. If you find yourself in this situation when talking with a student, start praying. Let the Holy Spirit give you the right words to say, the right scripture to quote and the right ideas to keep the conversation going.
If a student is still not sure where they stand with God, don’t force the issue. Let them have time to think about it, but don’t forget to keep checking with them and let them know how important this decision is. If you have high school seniors in your group and you are not sure where they stand with God, keep at them, don’t let them graduate without having a serious one-on-one discussion with them about accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It might be the most important conversation you have with them.