Helping Students Give Presence This Advent

Jacob Eckeberger
December 11th, 2017

We live in an incredibly fast-paced culture. It seems like every day there are people to meet with, an enormous pile of work to be done, and appointments to be at… and that’s just my own kids’ schedule! Our culture doesn’t like slowing down, no matter who you are.

Especially students.

It’s no surprise for me to tell you that our students our busy. Between sports, homework, church events, work, family life, and so on, they have very little time to be present. They have to constantly focus on what’s coming next. It’s a lifestyle of anticipation, but rarely a lifestyle of simply being.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think this busy-ness is a life Christ called us to. If you look at Jesus’ life, he was not always seeking out the next big thing he could do. He didn’t have to seek anything out. Busy-ness sought him out. Instead, Jesus was incredibly intentional about seeking out quiet, calm, and rest. He demonstrated the importance of separating oneself from the chaos of life rather than charging head first into it.

There’s a terrific passage in Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus asks a crowd of people…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Note this: Jesus never says “Do more and you will recover your life.” He doesn’t say “Take more on your shoulders and your burden will be light.” Nope. Nothing like that. He tells us to rest. He asks us to quiet ourselves and simply be with Him.

We’re in the midst of Advent, a season to celebrate the Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace, and Love that was brought to this world with the birth of Christ. Those are all fantastic things, but can any of us truly experience them to their fullest if we never pause long enough to even recognize them? This beautiful gift that Christ represents for each and every one of us is something that should be experienced. How can we experience this gift if we unwrap it quickly with the rest of life and it gets lost in the excess wrapping paper that piles up? Come on, you know what I mean!

How many of you have been in a room of presents being unwrapped and soon there’s more wrapping paper in the room than air? At least in my home, unwrapping presents turns into a frenzy of who can do it fastest. There’s not a lot of cherishing the gift. We unwrap then grab the next one to see what else we’ve got. I feel like that’s our attitude with the gift we’ve been given in Jesus. We allow the busy-ness of life to take the place of simply being with Christ.

But Christ says…”rest.”

Advent is a busy season, especially in a church. There’s always more to do. Perhaps you’ve even got a slammed calendar within your own student ministry. I get it. Our culture dictates all this stuff we think we need on our plates.

But we don’t.

More stuff doesn’t equal more hope, faith, joy, peace, or love.

Quite often, I hear youth pastors and youth leaders having conversations about how we get our students to be more present in church when life is pulling them in a million different directions. There’s a number of ways we could approach that conversation, but I always want to ask youth leaders in that conversation if they’re demonstrating the very thing they desire for their students.

Are you actively practicing the presence you’re asking your students to attempt?

Think about your upcoming student ministry calendar. Do you have a bunch of amazing events planned that you hope your students are a part of? While there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, if our student ministries aren’t conducive to aiding in a lifestyle of resting in God, then we’re simply adding more to their already full docket of things they “need” to do.

Or what about the way you personally live your life? Students see it. They know when we’re not being authentic. So are you living a life that’s always bursting at the seams with stuff to do or are you living out a lifestyle that reflects what you’re hoping your students experience?

One of the best presents we can give our students this Advent season is a new way of thinking about presence. The way we start that is by first living out a life of presence with Christ. If we are talking about hope, faith, joy, peace, and love but are running around like chickens with our heads cut off, then we aren’t doing a good job at living out how a life with Christ impacts us on a personal level. We are just demonstrating that we have to do more and more and more.

That’s not the message of the gospel.

The “good news” is about being enough as is and finding rest in our God who says so.

So this Advent season, may you be that tangible demonstration to your students. May you live your life and plan your calendars in a way that shows students you don’t always have to be worried about what’s next. Christ simply invites us to be present wherever we’re at with Him.

Ryan_Schmall-819x1024RYAN SCHMALL is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. You can follow him on TWITTER or read his blog over at IAMRYANSCHMALL.TUMBLR.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

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