Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Church Revitalization, Student Ministry, and Missions


In continuation of the Revitalize series, I want to discuss the next subject from Thom Rainer's blog 9 Questions You Should Ask Before Leading A Church Revitalization. In my last blog from this series we discussed prayer and its necessity to church revitalization. The subject of prayer seems trite, but many ministers take prayer for granted. Instead, I argued for strategic prayers. Furthermore, I would remind my readers, that I am a student minister not a senior pastor. All of my arguments come from the perspective of a second chair youth and college minister who is attempting to aid in the church's revitalization.

The question for discussion today is #2 "Will I see this opportunity as a mission field?"

Far too many ministers view local church work and missions work either domestic or international as too separate of concepts. This is foolish, because all Christians are missionaries. The change from one person to the next is the specific mission field and spirituals gifts given by God to the individual.  In his book Breaking the Missional Code, Ed Stetzer argued that the first step of a church to become mission minded is to have a burden for its immediate community to share the gospel with them. IN response to this mindset, the Christian should adapt the mentality of a missionary, meaning that he or she will adjust his mannerisms and methods to reach the surrounding culture while not losing the essential gospel. Missionaries have called this process contextualization for many years.

The question remains, how does being mission minded relate to church revitalization? As a student minister, it is important to note that many ministers do not know what goals they want to accomplish in ministry. I believe to properly answer the question of revitalization and missions, one must answer the more important questions of what we want to accomplish in the first place. I believe that the purpose of student ministry is to prepare teenagers to be mature, spiritual adults. I do this through a 3part discipleship strategy over a 7 year progression: spiritual maturity, personal mission, and multiplied influence from Ephesians 4:11-13. Each of the three areas have measurable indicators to understand and develop students into spiritual adults and leaders.

The second mark of my ministry is personal mission, and this is where the purpose of youth ministry correlates to church revitalization. There are three phases to personal mission: service, evangelism, and missions. Each one builds upon the prior. Service is the simplest, takes little training, and can be accomplished simply with a rake and trash bag at elderly person's back yard. Evangelism is the act of a student sharing her faith with another student in a personal manner. Mission is the use of both service and evangelism in the aid of planting churches and ministries. Thabiti M. Anyabwile confirmed these principles in his book What is a Healthy Church Member. The notion that Anyabwile supported is that a church can only be healthy when its members are healthy. This is further developed by the sister book What is a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Church revitalization is then directly tied to the health and activity of the Church in the community to reach people for Christ. Stetzer returned to this topic later in the afore mentioned book to argue that a mission minded church leads to healthy church growth both numerically and spiritually.

Perhaps there are still some wondering why a youth minister is asking this question or even cares to discuss it. May I remind my readers that revitalization is a slow process that can take years to secure and more years to develop into a strong part of the church worldview. If the church would like to change its worldview, the best way to accomplish this goal is to develop its future leaders. Many churches focus on the median and senior adults for the leadership and leadership development, but this is often too little and too late. Change the mentality of the students and church will change the mentality of the church for long term results. If a student makes missional students, the church will be in a much healthier state. However, as a warning, if the church does not offer anything for students once they reach college and young adult ages, they will go to another church where they can work out their faith. Student ministry is to prepare leaders; adult ministry is the best platform to utilize those leaders.
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