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Equipping Students To Be Influencers

Equipping Students To Be Influencers

It is our fault really.

By "our" I mean people like me who stand up in front of students for a living . . . "professional Christians." For so long we have pounded into students' heads "it's us vs. them. Don't give in. Just say no. Walk away. Stay away from the world. Stand strong." There is nothing wrong with these things when they are presented in the right context. However, none of these phrases sum up the life that Christ called our students, or us, to live. Christ called us to go into the world. There is a major difference between a student who is trying to live a life that is "not-influenced" and a student who is living their life "to influence." The two couldn't be more opposite.

In my favorite movie of all time, Braveheart, there is a scene where William Wallace and his friends get all-painted up to take on the English. It's their first major battle. Just before the fight commences, Wallace looks at his friends and says, "Just be yourselves. I'm going to pick a fight." As he leaves, his friends look at each other and say, "Hope we didn't get dressed up for nothing." This moment serves as a great description of American Christian students: "all dressed up, with no fight to fight."

Over time, students who are not challenged or released to engage lost friends, dream big, and make an impact, begin to wonder what the point is. These students sit in Bible study, go to youth group, and sing the songs, but never are challenged to do anything. For these students, the teachings of Christ and the Bible soon become a set of rules to keep them from messing up, not a set of standards that lead to freedom so they can influence the world. These students are bored. They have failed to grasp the idea that their friends are tired of being invited to church and are instead dying for someone to invite them to a relationship with Christ! What does it look like when a student gets it?

Students who "get it" see the ethical and moral teachings of the Christian life not as restrictions but as freedom. They see the words of Scripture as standards that allow them to live a life of authenticity. A life of influence. They see worship not as a feel-good experience, but as a time to truly celebrate what God has done and prepare for what God will do. Bible study becomes preparation for a day on the front lines. Even their prayers change: "Lord help me to see these people they way you see them, and respond the way you would respond." All of a sudden accountability becomes something that sharpens their influential impact. They begin to watch one another's back to make sure they don't fall or lose their influence.

I don't know about you, but I want my ministry to be one that enables teenagers to be this second kind of student. I want students who get it. As I am watching our students grab hold of the life Christ intended for them to live, I have been amazed to see our student ministry become a "movement of influencers." I challenge you to lead from a life of influence and stop the defensive Christianity. The world needs students who are willing to "go" and impact their world for the name of Christ.

Share your thoughts with the youthministry360 community:

  • In what ways are you equipping your students to be influencers? How do your programs or initiatives meet this end?
  • What obstacles keep your students from influencing their friends for Christ?
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