A Word for All People
One of my favorite things about Southwood is our dedication to the teaching and preaching of the Word of God as contained in the Old and New Testaments. We affirm the Westminster Shorter Catechism by saying that “the Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.” If we are not about the Word, we will not know how to live. This reality echoes throughout every ministry of the church.
I have heard student ministry described as “the thing that anybody can do, but nobody wants to.” This description comes from the idea that student ministry is primarily a way to keep middle and high school students around the church until they are old enough to participate in and benefit from Gospel teaching. Until then, keep them quarantined and let someone else deal with the raging hormones and sensory overload. While this is obviously a gross caricature, it is not uncommon to see the youth segmented from the rest of the church.
It is certainly tempting to operate in and grow a ministry program by offering fun and excitement. If the planning is good, the food is tasty, the music is fun, and the right kids come, High-Life might be the best thing going in town. Kids will talk about us. Parents will praise us. Sunday morning attendance might increase. Unfortunately, this can come at a strong price.
The ministry of the Word is fundamental to student ministry. The teens around you might be some of the more tired and stressed out people that you know. Technology allows for life to come at them in tidal waves. Afternoon, evening, and weekend schedules are packed. Peer and parent pressure is endlessly pressing in on them in unique ways. Emotional centers in the brain are rapidly developing and causing mood swings and uncontrollable outbursts. Life is very real, yet they keep being told that their real life has not yet begun.
There is an interesting quirk in people like Winnie Winford, me, and the adult leaders in the student ministry. When we walk into a room of students, we simply see people. We see joy and heartache, accomplishment and struggle, fear and expectation, and endless places for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate hearts and lives. We know that their lives have begun.
What I referred to as an interesting quirk a moment ago is actually a spiritual gift to be nurtured and exploited. The beauty of the Word of God is its sufficiency for all people in all times. God’s heart for the littlest, the least, the lost, the lonely, and the left-out is the only eternal hope that anyone can offer. For students, finding an identity in who they are as image-bearers of the eternal God is essential. Before you are an athlete, before you are an actor, before you are a singer, before you are a college student, before you are a husband or wife, before you are a parent; before your “real life” begins, know that you are first and foremost a child of God.
A good definition for the word “wisdom” is “skill in the art of godly living.” The junior high students have been studying Ecclesiastes, James, and the nature of God this year, all in the hope to learn more about wisdom, how to get it, and how to use it. Ecclesiastes teaches us that life does not hold the key to itself. Our complete knowledge and understanding of a situation is not a prerequisite for our obedience to the God who loves us and takes care of us. James teaches us a similar lesson reminding us that if we “draw near to God, he will draw near to you…If you humble yourself before the Lord, he will lift you up” (James 4:8, 10).
The senior high has been exploring Genesis 1 and the book of John. We want to embrace the reality of a Creator God who made us in his image to be in relationship with us. God has pursued his image-bearers, even in our brokenness, to be about his mission in the world. John allows his readers to experience the beauty and wonder of the God-man, Jesus. God of very God condescended to his creation in order to seek and save the lost. The reality of this identity can only be experienced in the study of the Word.
Pray for us. Think of us. And if you think that you share the same quirk of loving students, be sure to talk to Winnie or me about how you can be involved.