As we come to the end of the year and look forward to a new one, it is important that we make sure we are staying on track with all areas of our student ministries. While we may have some ideas of what a successful student ministry looks like, we need to make sure we are evaluating according to God’s standards and no one else’s. This week, we want to understand our great need to be gospel-centered in our student ministries.
More than just a ministry buzzword, gospel-centrality pushes us back to the heart of the matter. Being gospel-centered is most often defined as preaching justification by faith alone. While we may not have done this intentionally, there is a tendency to place behavior modification over gospel transformation. We must make sure we are teaching our students sound doctrine and helping them fully know and embrace the gospel. You can call it gospel-centered or gospel-focused but, either way, it is about keeping the great gift of God, salvation through Christ, at the heart of our churches and ministries.
If this is to be our focus, how do we get there? It is one thing to express a desire but entirely another to implement a plan. Here are a few tips to help as you seek to make your student ministry gospel-centered:
• Present the gospel message as a regular part of your gatherings and activities. Even if your students all profess Christ, the constant reminder will help clarify the image in their minds. The more they hear the message, the easier it will be for them to know and share. That doesn’t mean you have to offer an invitation every time, but it does mean (and I’ll paraphrase Jared Wilson of the For the Church Podcast) we need to “Make Jesus big in your ministries.”
• Help your students engage in evangelism. This is a two-fold process. One, you need to train them to share Jesus with our lost world. They need to be able to clearly articulate the gospel message. Two, look for opportunities to have your students share Jesus and be involved in the work. Dare to Share (dare2share.org) has a lot of great resources in this area.
• Encourage your students to be mission-minded. Tell them about the gospel proclamation work of Lifeword. Show them the faces of our missionaries in Arkansas and around the world. Hit them with facts that include the number of lost people in our world. Expose them to Volunteer Student Missions and opportunities where they can personally get involved. Sometimes, students just need to see the need and know they can have an impact. In addition to showing them missions around the world, pray for missionaries and lost people groups. Help your students realize that God’s plan is big enough for them and completely bigger than them at the same time.
This is really just the beginning. Making changes in the philosophy of our student ministries can be difficult. We fall into patterns of activity and mindset. I encourage you to be intentional with the young men and women to whom you minister. The world is being very intentional in what they are lifting up in the minds of young people. We need to be even more so because we have the greatest message and the greatest purpose. Let’s make much of the gospel with our students.