Jonathan walked around campus wide-eyed. He had been on campus for almost three weeks now but he still couldn’t believe that he was finally in college. It was a little after 10:00 am on Sunday morning and he was returning from a late breakfast. He loved Sunday mornings because he could sleep in and his roommate was off at church so he had the whole room to himself. As he thought about church he felt a slight tinge of guilt.
Jonathan had grown up going to church. He had gone to Sunday School and was even a member of the youth worship band. But during the summer after he graduated he began to lose interest in church and started to find excuses for not joining his family on Sunday. When he got to college it was easy for him not to find a church and he was enjoying the newly found “freedom” on Sunday mornings.
The story of Jonathan isn’t real in the sense of Jonathan being a real person but it’s all too real in the terms of the statistics. The numbers vary slightly but in general most studies will show that 60%-80% of high school graduates who associate themselves with Christianity will walk away from their beliefs and the church soon after graduation. Regardless of where that statistic falls…that number is sobering.
As a student pastor – and a parent of future teenagers – that statistic is even more concerning. It leaves us, as a church, with a big task and the glaring question…how will we protect and keep our students from being a part of the majority? In other words, what do we do as a church do to raise up students who are passionate and authentic followers of Jesus – students who love and are integrally connected to the life of the local church – and students who seek to lead a gospel movement in their school, their city and around the world?
On the eve of launching our student ministry gathering, I have been wrestling with these exact questions. I think the answer can be summarized in two parts. With an unyielding drive, we as the church, must work to see…
1. Students who love Jesus.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of a farmer who went out to sow seed. He began throwing the seed on the ground. Some of the seed fell on the path and dried up immediately – some fell amongst rocky soil and never grew roots – other seed feel in an area where there were a lot of weeds and thorns that eventually choked the plant out. But some seed fell on the fertile soil and yielded a ridiculous crop.
Jesus explained that the seed that grew and yielded an abundance of fruit represented those who “[hear] the word and [understand] it.” Our hope and our deepest prayer, as a church, is to see students who hear the gospel and get it. And the result is an authentic and lasting relationship with Jesus. Paul describes it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
What if instead of raising “good kids” we were more concerned with raising gospel-empowered followers of Jesus? What if instead of merely entertaining our students we set out to equip them to know and speak God’s Word?
2. Parents who love Jesus.
Of course raising up students to love Jesus is not a task that can be done alone. Parents need a supportive church to help disciple and equip them. Likewise, the church needs parents who are committed to teaching and showing the gospel to their kids. If we are pushing students to “[make] your ear attentive to wisdom and [incline] your heart to understanding” (as Proverbs 2:2 exhorts) we need parents who are willing to speak and live out that wisdom.
This doesn’t always mean biological parents. The beauty of Christianity is that you are adopted into a new family…God’s family (Eph. 1:5). That means that for those of us who don’t have godly parents at home – we can look to others in the church who become our family of faith. This happens primarily through intentional discipling relationships. At Mercy Hill we need college students, young professionals, and even retirees who love Jesus and who want to invest in students.
If you are a student in grades seven through twelve OR if you are someone who wants to invest in the lives of these students – join us on Wednesday, August 27th as we launch our Mercy Hill student ministry that we’re calling “712”. I am excited to see God raise up a movement of students through Mercy Hill so that the surrounding high schools, the city of Greensboro, and the nations will be impacted for His glory.
For all the details about 712 visit our student ministry page by clicking here.
Thanks to Jon Neilson and his insight from a recent article, which helped shape a good bit of this post. You can access that here.