Nearing the end of his days with his disciples in and around first century Jerusalem, Jesus wanted to show them just how great His love was. I can imagine them sitting around the table, talking about the crazy crowd that had erupted as Jesus rode into town & the lady that poured perfume on Jesus… It really didn’t seem to mesh with Jesus’ talk about dying and all that, but wasn’t he always talking all cryptic like that? What a wild couple of days.
And then, to show them a love greater than they’d ever noticed in a way that they could no longer miss it, Jesus excused himself from the discussion, left the table, and began to wash his friends’ feet. To show them His love, He served them – even in a way they would have thought humiliating. (Notice that none of them had volunteered for the job?) Though they rightly called Him their Teacher and their Lord, He took the responsibility normally given to the lowest household servant.
Nearing what they thought would be his crowning achievement…
In His final days…
One last lesson to drive home the point…
One more moment to give them a glimpse of what His Kingdom is all about…
And Jesus… washed… feet.
If a youth ministry is going to leave a mark on this world that is worth leaving, we have to get this right. We have to help students see that being a part of His Kingdom means joining the crew to whom Jesus said (after washing their feet) “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” We, young and old, are to follow Him in His example of humble service.
A commitment to service as the church is one of those gravitational nexuses I have found myself pulled to in student ministry. Student ministry that continues the kind of Kingdom revolution that Jesus started is marked by this commitment to serve. It’s not enough for kids to commit to being in a Sunday school class or showing up for camp and a minimum of 47 Sunday morning services per year… It’s not enough that they sign up to pass the offering plate once in a while or play in the praise band… It’s not even enough to get them to willingly stack chairs and shuffle tables around for every event that causes the gym to be transformed into a fellowship hall (AKA a gym with tables and chairs in it). It’s great for students to serve the church, but they also need to serve the community AS the church.
There are a few things that happen as a result of this:
- Students get to be an integral part of God showing Himself in someone’s life.
- Students get to see how their humble contribution of whatever they are can be greatly multiplied when placed in God’s hands.
- Students build relationships with adults while they serve together. I’m convinced that those relationships (which are missing in many churches) are more valuable than most of us currently realize ~ certainly more valuable than yet another message from me or than any curriculum I’ve come across.
- Adults in the church begin to see the young part of their church in a whole new light ~ they’re not a bunch of freeloaders, they’re just still looking for the right ways to contribute to the church’s mission.
- People outside the church get to see the multi-generational church in action, unmistakably loving those whom God loves.
So, how do you teach students to serve? You serve. You take them with you when you serve. You make opportunities for them to serve, too. Here a few examples:
Help out a Habitat for Humanity project, do a road-side cleanup, serve in a soup kitchen, clean a park, shovel sidewalks for neighbors, sort items at a clothing bank or homeless shelter, rake someone else’s leaves, take a service trip to a nearby town, or a mission trip to a reservation or inner city or another country, paint someone’s house, volunteer at a health clinic, shovel poop at the fairgrounds… the list is pretty much endless if you’re willing to serve.
With summer arriving, a lot of students will have large blocks of available time. Help them make the most of it by finding some service opportunities and helping them develop their commitment to serve as the church. How will you help them serve?
—If you’re one of my students (past or present), help me out a little bit in the comments section – what’s been your favorite or most meaningful service activity we’ve done together?
Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail:
5 Marks of Youth Ministry That Makes a Difference
A Permanent Attitude of Worship
A Kingdom View of God’s Church
A Passion for Revealing God
A Hunger for Depth in Relationship With God