Filling the Bleachers for every student

We have all had those backyard moments when we are imagining the closing seconds of the game in the sport of our choosing. The moment when we score the decisive points to win the game and we make our victory run with our arms lifted high into the air while the crowd goes wild. How sweet it is!

Unfortunately, this is only an imaginary moment for most of us. We’re never actually in that moment when the final score relies on us and we make the magic happen. We never hear the crowd go wild at our heroics. That experience is embraced only by a select few. And that’s OK. Because fortunately, life is so much more than our buzzer-beating sports fantasies. Our students do not need to be the hero to flourish in life. But it sure helps to have some fans.

Everyone needs at least one Fan!

Can you remember how important it was for you to look into the stands or the audience and see at least one person who was there specifically to cheer you on? The motivation and encouragement that comes from knowing that someone cares about you are powerful.

This truth is actually more important when it comes to passing on the faith to the next generation.  Our students don’t need just one fan; they need the whole church cheering them on. It cannot be overstated how important it is that each of our students has multiple adults (fans) apart from you and their parents who are intentionally cheering them on in faith and life. The “Sticky Faith” research from Fuller Seminary shows this is one of the primary factors in students who stay connected to the church and flourish in their faith.

We see this truth all throughout the Bible. Not the use of the word “fans” but the truth of men and women speaking encouragement into the lives of young people helping them to press on in the faith. The Apostle Paul spends significant portions of his letters cheering on the people of God and making sure key leaders are there to encourage the church when he is not there. Psalms speak of one generation commending the greatness of God to the next.

What about you?

Think for a moment about your own life. Where would you be without the adults who invested in your life? A little reflection usually reveals that God has given you a cheering section filled with fans that have cheered, served, and sacrificed for you to get to where you are in life. Did you have too many fans? Not likely! I don’t know anyone who feels they would have been better off if they only had fewer people who cared about them.

Filling the Bleachers

My question over the last five years has been something like this: “How can I fill the bleachers, for every student in our ministry, with adults from every generation in the Church who are cheering them on in faith and life?” This is a vital question but it is no small task, in part because the distance between generations seems to be growing along with the distance between student ministry and the overall church. Every student ministry needs to have a plan to make it normal for every student in their ministries to have a “fan base” of adults that is representative of every generation in the Church.

As I have come face to face with the benefits of intergenerational ministry I believe that it needs to become a non-negotiable component for all of our ministries. Don’t stop reading! I understand the how easy it is to be weighed down by the vast responsibilities of developing an effective youth ministry.

Simple, Natural and Repeatable

There is so much great information out these days that can help when you are formulating your plan. Check out all the Sticky Faith resources that are designed for you as a youth pastor and for families. It was the Sticky Faith research that was instrumental in stimulating the creation of the Pray for Me Campaign. Because of their research, we began to relentlessly ask the question: “How can we get more adults connected with more teenagers more naturally than ever before?” The Pray for Me Campaign is our answer to that question.

The PFMC is a simple way of helping churches bridge the gap between generations through prayer. Students are equipped to invite three adults from three different generations to be their Prayer Champions for a school year. The plan is repeatable because each year students invite three new Prayer Champions, which gives them a growing cluster of “fans.” A student who is in your ministry from 6th grade through 12th can have as many as 21 different adults apart from your student ministry and parents who have prayed for them in a significant way.

“I wish my church did that when I was growing up!”

This has been the refrain of adults from every age group when they hear about the Pray for Me Campaign. It seems no matter how old we get we can remember our own longing for adults who were on our team. “Fans” who wanted us to succeed in both our faith and in life.

May we do everything we can to give each of our students the intergenerational relationships they need to flourish in faith and life.