One of the things the Lord has laid on my heart recently is the lack of motivation for junior high and high school students to spend time in God's word. As a student pastor I see this all the time. I see it in students who show up once a month for life group and I see in students who are at every event. The Lord has been challenging me to better understand why this happens. A lot of these students are obviously believers in Jesus but they do not spend time with the Lord on a frequent basis. After talking through the idea with a close friend of mine, Caleb Reeves, I began to realize that part of the issue may be because of the way we frame the bible. He was talking about how we tend to make it something that will help us if we read it or hurt us if we don't and in reality it is something that we do out of worship to our savior. It is a response to our salvation. This led me to a deeper thought, in order for students to spend time in the word they must value their salvation. In other words, their faith must be the number one priority in their lives. It doesn't matter how "perfect" we paint the picture of the bible if their faith is not a priority they have no draw to scripture. This led me to ask a couple of our students who I would call "rockstars" in our ministry what causes their faith to be a priority and I believe the Lord gave me a clear cut conclusion, Parents. I know this may sound like a "duh" statement but as a parent (although mine aren't teens yet) this hit me pretty hard. I think there are a few areas that we as parents always need to be reminded of:
Follow the Leader
As a parent we are given leadership over our Children from the Lord. PARENTS ARE THE PRIMARY DISCIPLERS IN THE PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP. Let me make this clear, this is not an option nor is it a sometime thing, we disciple our children. Every day they watch and listen to how we live, what we read and watch, how we treat others and everything else. This is all discipleship, the question is what are we drawing them to be a disciple of? Here is the bottom line of this section, If faith is not a priority to a parent, it will not be a priority to a student or child. Youth pastors and workers can preach and teach until they are blue in the face the importance of making a student's walk with Christ the most important thing in their life but if we as parents do not reflect that it will be very difficult. Scripture tells children to honor their parents, and it is innately in us that we are to listen to them. Pastors and life group leaders can equip them to be disciples of Christ but if as their parents we are equipping them to be disciples of the world we don't have a chance.
Off - kilter
This leads me to my second thought. As I was thinking through this I began to weigh in on what students priorities in life were. I think it can be grouped into 3 main categories: relationships, media, and extracurricular activities. For most students these three areas drive everything they do. When they get up in the morning they spend a large amount of time getting ready because of a desire to meet some sort of relational expectation. This could be from friends or teachers all the way to a "significant-other". They might get up and spend time working out which could be relational or could be so they can dominate on the court/field/etc. They may wear a certain outfit just so they can post a selfie on whatever social media site they want. Then the rest of their day is spent filling themselves up (being discipled by) these different arenas. They spend time in relationships, they spend time on media (average 7.5 hours a day according to the huffington post), they practice and play games and have concerts. I was struggling how do we make faith something greater than these and it dawned on me as me and my wife were discussing that the reason student's priorities are off kilter is because most adults priorities are off kilter. They come home and see us on our phones, or watching tv, playing video games, or focusing on our favorite sports team. We make decisions based on relationships. Our motivating factor is the exact same as our children. We must evaluate where we use our resources: time, money, energy. All of these things are give to us from God and we have a finite amount of them, is what we do with them a reflection that Christ is our priority or something else?
I think one of the root causes of all of these is a false sense of satisfaction. All of us have a desire to be satisfied. It was put in us by God. We spend our entire life (some of us anyway) searching for satisfaction. The challenge we have in the U.S. is we have false sense of being satisfied. We think because we go to church, our kids are doing good in school and sports, we have jobs and money in the bank, and good friends that we are ok. This false sense of satisfaction leaves us lazy in our desire for perfect satisfaction found through Christ. This is why it is not a priority. Why do students spend 7.5 hours a day on media (social media, tv, internet, video games)? Because they feel satisfied and they see their parents as satisfied. How would our lives changed if we realized that our only satisfaction was found in Jesus and we genuinely sought his word because we were wholly satisfied in him and desired to know more and more about him?
Not enough time?
I have to give my wife Elizabeth the credit for this thought. We were talking through and she brought this point up. I have said multiple times that if there just more hours in the day I could get everything accomplished. We all feel that way, there is just not enough time for me to do everything and spend time with the Lord and, and, and….but the fact of the matter is that God created time. He created days, and he created us. He created all of us in harmony and if God thought we needed more than 24 hours in a day he would have given us more. But he didn't. He gave us 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year, and 24 hours in a day. What we have to do is make sure we are using that time in a manner that glorifies the Lord. We don't need more time, we simply need less time-wasters.
What do we do?
So what do we do? How do we as parents make sure that when we disciple our children that we lead them to be a follower of Christ and not the world. It starts with us. We have to make a decision that our relationship with Christ is the greatest priority. We have to spend time in the word every day and pray, we have to have spiritual conversations with our family. We have to serve together, go on mission trips together, share the love of Christ together, and do it all in worship of who Christ is and what he did for us. If we have a relationship with Christ and find our ultimate satisfaction in him and desire to grow in our walk with him then everything else in our lives filter through that lens. In John 15 Jesus lays out to his disciples what it looks like to follow him, and I think if we truly want to worship Christ with our lives then we have to follow these things. Not out of a desire for righteousness but rather out of worship to our Lord. We must abide in his word, we must pray, we must love and connect with the church, and we must reach the world. If we do these things then naturally our everyday life will be centered around Christ and it will be the number one priority.