“Leadership is influence.” -Maxwell
If leadership is all about influence, then the real question is, “How do we gain influence?” I have found that influence with students is born out of the relationships you have with them.
Remember the story of Philip and Nathaniel? (John 1) Philip had a life-changing experience with Jesus and he wanted Nathaniel to have the same experience. So Philip tells Nathaniel about Jesus. Then Nathaniel, like many students that we serve, had some doubts. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” he said. To Nathaniel’s doubts, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” Notice, Philip’s appeal is to the relationship that he has developed with with Nathaniel.
This is what we want. We want to see students have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. However, most students will not come to Jesus if we haven’t first developed a relationship with them so that they trust us when we say, “Come and see.” Come and see what Jesus made you for. Come and see how Jesus has called you to live. Come and see your purpose.
I have found that the ultimate relevance is relationship, and that “I Care” trumps “I’m Cool” every time.
Over and over, the moments that students say have impacted their lives have not been about the things that I had associated with my role. I haven’t heard one talk yet about the messages I’ve so carefully crafted, or the cool invitations I spent hours designing.
The things they said impacted their lives were all about relationships. A conversation over lunch after school. Taking them home from their basketball practice. A trip to the mall. Things that I honestly do not remember. However, it meant the world to them. It was those things, the relationship stuff, that caused them to respond when I asked them to “Come and see” in a youth service. It was those things that opened the door for me to speak truth into their lives. Because our lives are the greatest message we will ever preach.
This is what this generation is looking for. They are not looking for the coolest Youth Pastor on the planet. They are not looking for you to melt their faces off with the most powerful exegesis of the book of Nahum. They are just simply looking for a youth worker who cares. They are looking for someone that will be there for them through it all. They are looking for someone to talk to when their parents are fighting. They are looking for someone to talk to when they have doubts about God.
Think about it...you are where you are today as a youth worker because somebody somewhere thought it was cool to care about you. What if we became that kind of youth worker to a student today.
Are our roles important? Absolutely. This is what we are. We have responsibilities that go with our roles in student ministry. However, what God has been challenging me about is to not think that I am influencing students just because my business card says “Student Pastor.”
I want to think relationship, not role.
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