I am working on a reading plan right now and currently my Old Testament reading has me in Leviticus. A lot of times, Leviticus and Numbers are the books we grip about when we try to read through the Bible. They are treated as a necessary part of reading through the Bible, read grudgingly because we feel like we need to read through the Bible. This is the first way reading Leviticus is like doing student ministry. It is perceived as something that is a laborious obligation rather than as something that could be the foundation of revival or a fundament part of church. There are a number of things in churches that are perceived that way at times, quite often reaching younger generations is treated like reading Leviticus, something we feel like we must do. But its treated grudgingly because it’s a lot of work and sometimes we see little fruit.
I have witnessed a couple of problems in the conversation about reaching “young people.” One of them is the term young people. Remember, Gen X and the Millennials are the last two labeled generations and Gen Xers can be as old as 50 while Millennials can be as old as 35. Young people are a lot older than we sometimes recognize. We have to understand the values and the motivations of these generations rather than just seeing it as a necessary evil, something that is a lot of work for very little reward. Students and “young people” make up more than 1/3 of our communities, what appeals to them and what draws them in so that we can teach them the gospel?
Another way reading Leviticus is like student ministry is that a lot of times we read Leviticus (and Numbers) to get through it to the meat and to the good stuff. We end up missing the value of student ministry because we treat it as a side project rather than as a fundamental part of what we do. We do student ministry so that we can get to the good stuff, the adult part of their lives, later. We ask our student ministry team to build worship and Bible study and entertainment that appeals to students or “young people” but we want them to do it over there and leave us alone. Ever wonder why most student ministries run 3x-5x more on Wednesday than Sunday? It’s not just because Sunday is earlier and its not just the students that we’re missing on Sundays, to a great extent, its their parents as well. Many of their parents by the way are Gen X or even Millennials…the things they value and look for are much more similar to what their parents value and look for than we often credit.
Finally, in both cases, both in reading Leviticus and in doing Student Ministry, we miss a lot of the richness that comes from both. When we read Leviticus with open eyes, we see a God who love and values His people, who desires a relationship with them and who desires to care for them. We see a God who wants us to believe so that by believing we might see. There is also a lot of richness in Student Ministry that is highly undervalued. Young people bring a desire to change the world that has not been seen in sometime, probably since the GI Generation. They want to make a difference and they want to connect, but all the church seems to be able to see is the activity and the electronics.
We need to pray for revival and that we would reach students, kids, and “young people,” but if all we ever do is pray, then God will use someone else. We must start with belief, then pray, then move. I love the quote from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.” There is so much truth in that statement. People, especially the lost are not going to come to the church and then ask the church to make changes that will help reach them, the church must make the changes in faith and confidence. It’s a scary thing, it requires a lot of work and a lot of faith on the part of the church and the current generation of the church is having to pay a higher price than generations had for sometime, but the cost doesn’t take away the mandate. There’s no easy fix or standard stamp that work either. Each church must look at their community, at the young and the lost that live around them and figure out what it will take.