Guest post by Scott Rowan. Scott is our Student Director at our Downtown Durham Campus. He is married to his wife Tricia and they just celebrated the birth of their first child just a few months ago.
A few weeks ago, The Onion posted an article titled, “New Rec Room Has Everything A Teen Could Want, Reports Church Youth Pastor”. The fictional young pastor describes a room with ping pong, Foosball, couches, free snacks and soda, board games, movies, Playstations, etc. He describes it as a “cool place for teens to come after school”. The satire works because it rings so true to anyone familiar with youth-group culture, especially if you grew up in the 90s. How closely does this resemble the rec room or student center that you grew up in? Does this describe your student facilities now? If you are a pastor, does this describe what you want your student facilities to become?
Most churches operate with nothing close to the facilities or budget described in the article, but I wonder how many of us pastors still buy into the lie that these things are required to have a thriving student ministry? How many of us are tempted to look in envy to that one youth group in town that seems so much cooler than ours? I’m probably guiltier than most.
Before the school year started, I actually told my supervisor that there was no way I could lead a thriving student ministry with my current time constraints (I’m part-time) and my current budget. I wasn’t asking for a rec room or anything, but I still felt I needed more resources to actually reach students.
I partner with another part-time student pastor at my church to lead a joint student worship service for our campuses each week. Yes, I work as a campus student pastor for a multi-site mega church but that doesn’t mean I have lots of resources. Here’s what we work with each week: a hand-me-down laptop and projector, a set of cheap speakers from Walmart, two Frisbees, and two-sets of checkers. (Seriously, checkers?) That’s it. We rent out a clubhouse because neither of our campuses has a permanent facility. My line-item budget for this event is $0.
Again, before the school year started I was frustrated. How was I expected to continue to develop and lead a thriving student ministry when I have so little?
But then a thought hit us as we were planning for the school year: what if God did something amazing this year not just in spite of our lack of resources but precisely because we had so little? What if we asked God to do something so incredible that we wouldn’t dare boast or take any credit? If God were to show up and move in a big way here no cynic could say, “Of course students are coming to your event. You guys have a pool table and a ping pong table and a WiiU and an awesome worship leader, etc.”
So to all the pastors out there with little or nothing: what if our lack wasn’t an impediment to seeing God act? What if it were instead an opportunity for God to be more glorified? What if we stopped asking God for more resources, and instead asked God to move in our midst precisely because it would bring him more glory? Here are two things I’m certain of: (1) students aren’t going to show up and remain in youth group because they hear about our checkers sets, and (2) God has a habit of working with the nobodies and the weak and the small and those who lack, because it was never about us or our name. It’s about God being made famous.
We launched our student service this year by casting what we thought was a big vision to our students. We challenged them that God uses the weak and the small and the messed up and the broken because it brings him more glory. We prayed that God would act, and then he did in a powerful way. Each week more and more students join in to worship with us. Many of them don’t go to church regularly (or at all). Last night, in an entirely volunteer led standing-room only service, we were just under the “big” number of students we wanted to reach this year. Because we’ve now outgrown our space, we’re having to move out of our rented clubhouse to a bigger clubhouse down the street. And it’s still only week 5. It’s as if God heard our prayer, answered it, and is now asking us to pray for bigger things.
To read the rest of the blog post in it’s entirety, check out Scott’s blog.