I had no idea what I was walking into. In July 2017, I was hired at Briarcrest Christian School as the Director of Student Ministries. The person who held the job beforehand is one of my heroes in the ministry. Even with an understanding of the big shoes I was going to attempt to fill, I had no idea what laid before me. But God knew. And by His grace, my eyes were opened to one of the ripest fields for discipleship harvest: high schoolers.
THE VALUE OF DISCIPLING RELATIONSHIPS
Eleven months after going on staff at Briarcrest, I find myself reflecting. What I’ve seen and what I’ve learned gives me both a joyful and expectant heart. I’m joyful because of the front-row seat I had to God’s mighty work in many lives. I’m expectant because I truly feel the best is yet to come. And one of my big takeaways from the past year is the value of life-on-life discipleship relationships. I’ve come to learn that a well-prepared and well-illustrated chapel message has immense value. The over two hours per week I spent with my students discussing apologetics is also extremely valuable. However, these things should not cause us to overlook the importance of inviting our high school friends into our lives in a discipleship relationship.
Why? During some of the most formative years of their lives, our high school friends are hungering for truth and authenticity from parents, teachers, and friends. I’ve heard it said that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care, and this is especially true with young people. With that understanding, we (educators, parents, and ministers alike) should desperately seek to share our lives with the next generation. This desire is echoed in the heart of Paul as he lovingly wrote to the church in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, saying, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” I believe by seeking to live this out we will witness not only informational transfer but also, by God’s grace, the life transformation of the next generation.
Most of those aged twenty-two and younger will find themselves on the rhythm of a school schedule, which provides some noteworthy discipleship opportunities, especially for parents. One of the things I’ve noticed in over twelve years in youth ministry is how tightly the thoughts and opinions of high schoolers are tied to the thoughts and opinions of their parents. In other words (parents lean in), they’re listening to you! Despite how it might appear, they are taking their cues from you during these crucial formative years. And summer is an awesome time to leverage this God-given influence in the lives of your children.
ONE MAJOR OPPORTUNITY FOR DISCIPLESHIP
How? What an excellent question! Summertime provides a well-welcomed break from the routine and rhythm of the school year. Anytime there is a break in the rhythm of life there is an opportunity to make an impact. And you need not spend a ton of money to make an impact. Rather, it simply takes some intentionality. Intentionality around what? Authenticity. Summertime is an excellent opportunity to recommit yourself to an authentic discipleship relationship with your child.
I’ve heard Matt Chandler confess on numerous occasions that he often sits his daughter down and apologizes to her by saying, “Daddy needs Jesus just as much as you do.” In other words, he is seeking a Jesus-exalting authentic relationship with her. So, parents, what opportunities might the summer provide for you to get some intentional time with your child? Maybe it’s an overnight camping trip? What an opportunity under the stars to ask your child to how you could pray for them! Maybe it’s a daddy-daughter date? That could give you a chance to share some Bible passages through which the Lord is really molding and shaping you. Maybe it’s some quality shoulder-to-shoulder time in the yard? You could take advantage of that time by sharing what Jesus is doing in your life while you shovel mulch. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, just intentional. Even though your child most likely will never ask for this intentional time, they desperately crave it.
And students, let me encourage you with something I learned the hard way during my summers in high school. I would often waste away my summers binge-watching shows and sleeping until noon. While there is nothing wrong with catching up on the latest show or a good night’s sleep, be intentional with your summers. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to disciple you over the break. Try to take advantage of the wisdom of those who are further along in their relationships with Christ. By doing so, this summer might not be just another summer full of Netflix and sleep. Rather, it might also include the life transformation that comes from someone not only wanting to share the Gospel with you but their life as well.
THE REASON FOR DISCIPLESHIP
Finally, why do we do this? What are we seeking to get out of this? Parents, do we just want our children to be well-behaved and refrain from going crazy in college? Students, do we just want to make social connections that might benefit us in the future? We’ve missed the point if these are the goals.
I believe the answer is found back in 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Paul mentions the Gospel of God. But what is the Gospel? It is the story of our Creator who is so affectionate towards us that He is willing to share with us not just information but His life as well. We all, both students and parents alike, are in desperate need of affection. We want someone to love us, approve of us, applaud us. And in the gospel we find the ultimate approval, applause, and the very definition of love in Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus sees us at our worst and loves us anyway. And He proves it by dying for us. His affection for us runs so deep that He shared everything He had with us. And when this penetrates our hearts we are changed forever. Back to my final question: why do we do this? Because we want everyone to experience the fulfillment of the love of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace this love often captivates the hearts of others through the life-on-life discipleship relationships He calls us into. And there is so much joy in watching others fall in love with Jesus as you walk alongside of them. May we all be partakers of His joy this summer!