My wife and I have been involved in college ministry for the past 3 years or so. We have been feeling some what of a call into youth ministry for the last few months and are praying and seeking the Lord for where he would use us. As any of you who know me know, I am a twitter fanatic and read a tweet mentioning Psalm 78 and decided to dive into this passage and once again the Lord revealed His glory through His word to me. I think that this passage can be a great foundation for parenting and student ministry. Here is my attempt to put my thoughts into words and cast the vision this passage gives on these areas of life.
This passage starts with giving instruction to listen to the teaching that is about to be given. Verse one takes a stance that I feel more parents and youth workers need to take; but tend to shy away from out of fear of how it will be taken. While not a single person on this earth is perfect (and neither was the author of this passage) I think it is important with our children and youth to tell them that they need to listen to us. The challenge is to take this stance humbly. We have all fallen short of the glory of God and from a personal standpoint have no leg to stand on when it comes to this; however because of our Savior and the experiences He has given us we do have a leg to stand on. God puts everyone through a certain set of experiences as part of His master plan and if we take a stance of "you can listen if you want" we are taking our divine experiences and putting our own worldly limitations to it.
In verse 3&4 we are basically told that we are to use our experiences, which always involve "the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord" to tell parables of what God has done in our live. What I love about this is that by using parables (which Christ used often) we take our circumstances which do not usually fit with anyone else and make the lessons learned extremely applicable. Also by doing this we take the glory away from us and point it to the Lord. It is easy for me to sit and tell my story, and say "if the Lord can save me he can save anyone"; but in all likelihood that will just cause people to go Wow, what a story. They might even say "praise the Lord". However, if I can take my story and make the lessons learned relevant to the current audience the the Lord can begin to work on the people with the struggles they are facing. Not to say He can't work on them in the previous example (He is God), but it just points the glory to Him and not the story.
Verse 7 is a verse I think all parents and student ministry workers should write on their heart. I know for me, the biggest prayer I pray for our two girls is that they would "put their trust in God". I did a little research on the Hebrew word for trust in verse 7 (NIV) and the Hebrew word is Kecel; which means hope, confidence, and also the flank of an animal. When I looked for this word used else where there are 3 parts in the old testament where it is used not referring to the flank, and two of them are in Job. Both point to putting our hope in something other than the Lord. When I think about this verse and what it really means to follow Christ I like that the word used is trust, hope, and confidence. Basically the reason we do everything we do. As long as our girls make this decision then they will not forget his deeds and will always keep his commands. That is the goal right? For both Student Ministry workers as well as parents, that the people we are sharing our experiences with through parables we want them to put their trust in the Lord.
Verse 12 is another one that I think we all should write on our hearts and really focus on. If you think about both the Israelites as well as believers today both have seen with their eyes and felt in their hears the miracles the God does. However, we still struggle to live a life that points only to God. Just as the Israelites, we ourselves make idols of the world and worship them even though we have had a personal encounter with Jesus. This is something we have to correct if we want to shift the current state of youth as they move on from High School. This lack of living discipleship has to be main cause for the reason high schoolers walk away from church.
All in all we have to use our testimonies and take the lesson's the Lord has shown us and apply them the the real life situations and struggles that our children and student's face on a daily basis. In addition we have to continue to live our lives in a way that reflects who we are in Christ. If we can do this with the authority given to us by the Lord, in a humble way; I genuinely believe that we can change the way student's see faith and keep it their hope as they move on to the next stage of their lives.