School is out and summer is here!! If any of you are involved in Youth Ministry in any way, you know that this is a busy time of year. Last Wednesday was no different for us. That morning, a student came by the house for an hour to talk and hang out with my wife and I. After lunch, I went back to the office and a couple of students popped by to say “Hi” and talk for a bit. That night we took our students bowling to celebrate the end of the year. After all of that, my intern Cassie came by the house and talked about her faith and her upcoming internship until after 11 pm that night.
Last Wednesday ended up being a very busy day and that did not even include the day-to-day, week-to-week behind the scenes responsibilities of youth ministry. Even with all that busyness, I cannot imagine a better way to do you ministry. Spending time with students outside of church and away from typical “church stuff” is vital for the student’s personal spiritual health and for all of them to spend time together is massively important for the overall health of the group. Quickly, let’s look at the biblical precedent for building thriving personal relationships as well as the precedent for building biblical community.
The old adage goes, “You’re a terrible shepherd if you don’t smell like the sheep.” Basically, if you’re not spend time with your students, you’re missing opportunities to encourage, disciple, listen and be a part of your students’ lives. So often through Scripture, God put people together for long periods of time so that they could grow spiritually.
Moses and Joshua. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and the disciples. Paul and Timothy. There is a clear example through Scripture that believers need to share life with one another. God’s call is for us to be together whether it is sharing a meal, traveling together or just getting together to talk. Youth ministry must have strong personal relationships between leaders and students so that the students may grow spiritually, so that trust can be built and disciples can be made. None of these things will happen if we depend on time spent together during normal Bible study times. There has to be times when you can grab coffee together, go throw frisbee or just come together to talk. Priceless bonds are formed in the small times like that.
At the deepest part of who we are, we want to: 1) Be loved. 2) Do something that is greater than ourselves. Within the context of biblical community we see: 1) We are loved by Christ and by our brothers and sisters in Christ. 2) We glorify God by coming together to serve Him. That is the beauty of biblical community.
Now, community can be especially hard to cultivate among a youth group, but that does not mean we should not try. We’re reminded in Hebrews 10 that we should not miss out on opportunities to come together as believers because that is where we can be most encouraged. So take advantage of every opportunity to build community and have students spend time with each other. The normal Wednesday night/Sunday meeting times are not enough to build community. Most times students come in right before youth group starts and leave as soon as it is over and they did not have a chance to talk to the other people in the room.
That’s why we have to create opportunities to have them spend time around each other and interacting. Whether it is having a bowling night, a game of ultimate frisbee, serving the local soup kitchen or going to camp. Students will spend more time than normal with each other and they will even spend time with those outside their normal social circles. Those times can help to build relationships among the group which can strengthen trust, increase transparency and help the students lean on one another as Christ intended the body of Christ to be.