by Lauren Crane
One of the biggest misconceptions about student ministry in 2009 is the idea that students are not hungry for deep theology, said Alvin Reid.
Reid, who holds the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a professor of evangelism and student ministry, spoke on the topic of gospel-centered student ministry in chapel on September 22. Reid, who is the faculty member heading up Southeastern’s new student ministry initiatives,
“How do we have student ministries that last?” Reid asked, in the face of evidence that this generation is more connected through digital social media than ever before. “The world in which we minister to teenagers has changed dramatically. So how do we minister? Through God’s word.”
Reid, who has spent most of his life working with young adults, said, “I would submit that what we’re doing is not producing what we say we’re producing. There is unrest.”
The solution begins with seeing the world from a different perspective and with a different set of lenses, he said. Just as a new believer suddenly sees the world through the lens of Christ, so must student ministers see teenagers through the lens of the Bible.
“The posture we take towards teens is not Christ-like. We treat them like fourth graders, saying ‘Boys will be boys,’ and ‘Let them sow their wild oats.’ Is that all we expect of our students?” Reid said. “They can learn trigonometry in high school – they can learn theology in church.
“This generation is hungry for substance – for the gospel,” Reid said. He named a number of biblical figures who were “youth,” who were given enormous tasks and furthered the kingdom of God. “if you study the word of God, you don’t see a time-out period where they can be goofballs. Our focus should be on raising a generation where, when our students leave our homes and our churches, they go out on mission for God.”
Reid said student ministers must also be reminded of the transformative power of the gospel, and it must be taught to the younger generation.
“He can and does make all things new,” Reid said. “We’ve created a culture within the church where we teach that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone, and then we act as if it’s all about works. We live as if God is Lord of our church lives, our friends are lord over our social lives, our pocketbooks are lord over our financial lives and our circumstances are lord over our emotional lives. At the center of our faith is a bloody cross, and we must keep it central.”
Authentic faith based off of that bloody cross looks vastly different than what many students are seeing these days, Reid said. “They’re not dying of heroine overdoses – they’re dying of overdoses of religion.”
In a panel discussion held later in the afternoon, Reid, along with others involved in student ministry, taught that the primary vehicle to reaching students and training them to not be religious but missional is the parents.
“At Southeastern, we’re training parents – they are the primary student ministers,” Reid said.
Jeff Pratt, Lifeway’s director of student ministry training and events, said, “Spend the majority of your time – not with students, but with the people who lead the students. They’re the ones in the trenches building relationships with them.”
However, it is not just the responsibility of students pastors and student’ parents to teach young people – it is up to every believer to model a life of missional living for the younger generations, said David Miller, student pastor at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest, N.C.
“We need to be missional at all times and in every way. We have reduced evangelism to an event, but missions needs to be woven into everything we do. This will teach our students that missions is a lifestyle.”
“All of Scripture points to Christ. All of creation points to Christ. All of history points to Christ,” Reid said. “If we have student ministries that point to Christ in everything we do, we’ll see amazing results. We’ll see transformation.”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.