I had a great week with my students at Student Life Camp in Glorieta, NM last week. I’ll be posting about several things that I learned, but I wanted to kick that off with something that the pastor said that really stuck with me. Our camp pastor this last week was Pastor Alex Himaya (http://www.thechurch.at/our-staff), he did a great job engaging our students!
The first morning during Student Pastor Gathering, he said, “you (and your church) need to stop thinking of your students as the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today.” (That’s probably not an exact quote, but its the idea he gave us.) In a very real sense he is correct (at least for those students who are believers). If a student (or child for that matter) is a Christian, then he/she is part of the church. In our particular local body, they are members, but even where they are not members, they are part of the body of Christ or the universal church.
Often the way our churches act towards students says something different, even the way we prepare space for our student ministry separates them from today’s church. It’s like we’ve cooked a meal and set aside some leftovers. The students become the leftovers of the church, they’ve been prepared by Christ, but the view of the church is that they have been set aside for “tomorrow.” They are the “future” of the church.
We must be careful though. This mentality limits the power of students in the church. Students have the same Spirit as you and me. They are the church and they can serve the church and are in fact called to do so. The responsibility that you and I have to serve the church and share our faith our students also have. God doesn’t say in the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples, unless you’re under 18, then wait a couple of years.” He says, “Go and make disciples.” He makes no distinction between Christians who are 9 and Christians who are 90.
Does this mean that they have the same responsibility for leadership or giving… of course not, but they are the body of Christ and we need to teach and train them accordingly. Most of all, we need to set expectations accordingly, they are not just the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today.