October 14, 2011

A Huge Blindspot In Student Ministry

I've been working with students for over a decade, & in my opinion one of the biggest blind spots & most neglected areas in most student ministries is in the area of teaching & equipping students to be good stewards financially. Thinking back over my own experience as a teenager, the only time I ever heard this brought up was in October which was always "Stewardship Month" in my Baptist church. That of course was likely due to the fact that the new budget would be proposed in November, & leadership wanted to either guilt or motivate everyone to support the upcoming budget.

However, I can never remember hearing it taught within the student ministry or hearing why financial stewardship & wise handling of money was so important. Honestly, I could understand why so many people think that the church is after their money. Too often I've heard preachers & teachers discuss money & stewardship divorced from the real spiritual issues involved. When we do that, the message is cold, forced, & too often manipulative. However, when we set financial stewardship in the greater context of the stewardship of one's life, it begins to make more sense. And when we go a step further & connect how that stewardship with our lives & our stuff connects to our mission as God's people, it can actually become compelling.

Recently I broke the ice with our students on this issue & much to my surprise it was really well received. In fact, I even had a 7th grader say, "I want to hear more about that." That blew me away, but it also opened my eyes to how big a blind spot this is. Think about it: If we have adults who are poor stewards of their lives & their finances, where do we think those habits were cultivated? Those patterns were developed when they were teenagers & got that first job & just assumed that every penny that they earned was just for their consumption. The result is that years later they are greedy people, no matter what tax bracket they are in. Then we have the difficult task of breaking those habits & attitudes. The real problem isn't financial; it's spiritual. They are serving their stuff & not God. As a result they don't invest in God's Kingdom. So instead of trying to get them to invest in God's Kingdom first, we have to tackle the real spiritual issue: where their devotion lies. Then we can give the prescription to fight greed: GIVING.

This fall our students are going to be challenged in this area through both teaching & in some opportunities to partner with our entire church as we begin a capital campaign that will allow us to continue to pursue God's vision for our church & student ministry. I would encourage all student pastors to figure out how to lead their students down this same path. Who knows, it may pay big dividends in the future as they become adults who have refused to let the pursuit of stuff to dominate their lives.

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