The First Steps to Building Discipleship Relationships
Nick’s post below is a great reminder of all we can learn from each other when we gather together. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and learn from the full family of youth workers.
It was a conversation I wasn’t expecting. He had followed me into the church kitchen in hopes of getting an extra snack from me, but the conversation that followed tore at my heart.
S: Hey, let me get a bag of those chips.
N: If you come to leadership on Wednesday, you will get these snacks and more there.
S: But I’m not on leadership…(voice trails off)
N: Why not?
S: I’m…I’m not sure I am a Christian. I don’t always act like it, and people that know me would probably tell you I am not a Christian and that I don’t believe in God.
So many thoughts flooded my mind that night. My first was, why is this conversation happening as I am kneeling on the floor in a kitchen frantically stuffing chips into a cabinet where hopefully they will last until Wednesday night?
Then my second (after God slapped upside my head) was, thank you Jesus for letting this conversation happen.
Ministry happens in many odd and miraculous ways.
This young man is an eighth grade student who has dealt with a lot in his life and knows who Jesus is but hasn’t fully committed to letting Him rule His life. I never would have expected this conversation to happen the way it did, but it opened up a door for us to begin meeting weekly together and he agreed to answer the “hard questions” about Christianity honestly. I thank God for days where ministry just “happens” on kitchen floors and across counter tops.
The question we should ask is how do we get there? So often conversations like these happen at times and in ways we would least expect, but they happen because there has been trust built! This student has been someone I have intentionally been plugging into in small but very meaningful ways, and I am convinced that if we do more of this we will indeed start having more kitchen floor conversations about Jesus. From these kitchen floor chats we will see that the next logical step is a mentoring relationship, but first we must get to the kitchen floor. The following are just some helpful and practical tips to begin the framework–the trust factor–that will lead to these conversations and more!
You cannot run an effective ministry if you don’t even acknowledge students when they are there. Not just on youth group or leadership nights. Acknowledge them all the time. On Sunday mornings, at the grocery store, where they work, even on date night. My wife and I bump into students all the time on date night and we love to pause and chat with them. Our priority is our time but we also love and acknowledge our students so they know that we care about them.
Know their name
It doesn’t seem like much but there is so much value in being known. When someone calls you by name it means they remember you and care. This is more than many students get on a daily basis. Their teachers don’t always remember them, their coaches forget them (especially if they aren’t a starter), employers see them as a number, and sometimes in families they feel forgotten.
Invest in their lives
Go to their activities, and follow up with them! A huge thing with students is caring about what they do. I recently went to an orchestra concert for a few students and the smiles that came across their faces knowing they had an audience filled with supporters who didn’t need to be there made my day! They still tell people “my youth pastor cares enough to watch me play the bass.” Another student is into knitting (something I am not) but I ask all the time what she knits and who she knits for. She gets so excited sharing what she is passionate about and loves to come and show me gifts she makes for local widows.
If you are going to do something then do it! Do not “forget,” do not “find something else to do,” but do it. Of course we will all miss things, but tell them you won’t be there, don’t leave it up to them to figure it out. Students have enough people letting them down, far be it from us to let them down also.
Live a life worthy of imitation
This is one we should all be doing. If we are going to call students to live like Jesus and to give their lives for Him we should be doing this as well. Students should see this in all aspects of our lives. How we speak to our spouses, how we raise our children, how we respond to frustrations (like when they talk during our messages or overflow the toilet twice in one night), how much time we spend with Jesus, how we care for others, and how we love.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is the framework for building the relationship that leads to kitchen floor conversations about Jesus. I am excited to see what God is going to do through this mentoring relationship and after that night, I am praying for many more conversations about Jesus in places and ways I would never expect!
Lord Jesus, use us to have conversations about Christianity and salvation in ways we never see coming so that many more students will enter into Your kingdom and experience Your everlasting love!
Nick Mance is a youth pastor in Iowa and is married to his wife Elise. Nick has served in a variety of ministry capacities for over ten years and is a writer, blogger, speaker, and communicator specializing in student and family ministry. You can find him on Twitter @nick_mance & his personal blog at nickmance.blogspot.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.