Building Students for God’s Kingdom by Jim Graff

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Do you agree that 2020 was both a year of suffering and breakthrough?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our life changed unexpectedly. We began to feel frustrated about loss and unexpected events. We grieved for what we planned but rules and restrictions wouldn’t allow us to do. But still, it was a year of a breakthrough as one thing remained the same: the good news of the gospel!

I often challenge people to become revolutionary for the next generation to understand the world better. I believe this happens when we get creative about how we continue to spread the good news.

In 2020, we lost many things, loved ones, happiness, and peace of mind. Do you mourn what you lost? The reality is loss is part of our lives. We feel the loss, but eventually we must move beyond mourning.

Christianity has the most profound and most nuanced view of how to deal with grief. We are to believe that joy will come in the morning, that God draws near the brokenhearted, and that all things (even the hard things!) work together for our good. Being careful, wise, and intelligent about how and when we do it, we need to spread this hope. We need to encourage others to move forward, focusing on the Word of God. It’s the good news and the only hope for this broken world!

In case you didn’t realize it, the younger generations lost a lot in 2020. High school graduates didn’t celebrate the way they’d dreamed their whole childhoods. Many students opened up about how isolated and depressed they felt. They turned online to find distractions and answers, and what they found was noise. So many voices. So many opinions. So many “perfect” people that they could never be like or become. The younger generations turned to the noise and chose trends and fame, ideologies and views about the world and God that are based on feelings. And sadly, these “noises” have become so loud that many have lost the ability to hear the voice of God. The “noises” have become more influential than the gospel! We as pastors need to help these students turn from the noise of this world and refocus on God, His message and voice. Only this will lead them to a lasting faith.

The truth is everything we say or do influences other people. That’s why we must be salt and light. Everything we deliver from the pulpit or share in ministry must be truthful according to Scripture. We need diligence and discipline to serve the Lord. We need to pursue God and know what truth is and what a lie is. We need to be sure that our preaching is found in the Word of God, not just on the internet.

The younger generation sometimes relies too heavily on the internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they approach you and say, “I found articles on Google that contradict your teaching.”For this reason, it is crucial to prepare our messages and investigate ahead of time, not just throw around claims. 

The idea of contributing is one of the most effective ways to engage with faith. After all, what is a Christian life if it’s not a servant life?

Jesus said, “Those who heard My word are different from those who heard and obeyed it.” Obedience gives a foundation to serve the Lord continuously. What I do with the younger generation is invite them to be a part of the ministry and build intergenerational relationships. We’ve created space for Gen Z to lead on children’s ministry and worship teams. We want them to know they have a voice here, and there’s a place for them, a place we’ve prepared and happily invite them to assume!

If life is not actively joining the mission of God, then it’s not Christianity. Making contributions and having healthy relationships lead all of us to lasting faith. It is the same for the students within your church!

I was a mess when I was younger, but God sent me a patient senior pastor who always encouraged me to keep going. And that’s the biggest thing I got from my leader: encouragement. He knew the importance of building God’s people instead of building an extensive ministry. There’s nothing wrong with building a crowd but changing people’s perspectives and motivating them to follow Jesus matters most.

Building God’s people is like planting a seed. It would be best if you had diligence in preparation, discipline in providing its daily needs, and patience as you wait for the growth. For the next generation to find God for the first time or return to Him after all they’ve been through in this last season, we must be faithful and creative about how we will go after them. We will have to show them we see them, that they matter, that God has a plan for them. We will have to encourage them in the faith, find ways they can make meaningful contributions in the church (and ultimately the kingdom!), and develop those multigenerational relationships that will reverse their generational isolation and tune them from internet voices into voices of wisdom right here in their local body of believers.

A decade from now, we will harvest the fruits of our effort in building God’s people. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and if we will invest in building them now, they will be ready to accept their God-given missions in adulthood.

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