This morning as I was eating my breakfast before heading off to work, I was watching as my wife was teaching our oldest daughter her math lesson for the day. It was on fractions. Everyone loves to learn those…right?
To help her learn how different fractions added together can make a whole, she used a square piece of paper and several different shapes that had a fraction written on them. After showing her how to cover the large square with 4 smaller squares (1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1), my wife said she needed to come up with 6 other ways to cover the square using the different shapes that were on the table. The shapes represented fractions of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1/8.
There were several times, as I watched her grab different shapes that I knew wouldn’t work together and attempt to move them around to try to make them fit, that I wanted to say “that won’t work” or “why don’t you try this piece instead (pointing to the one that I knew would work)”. I knew what would work and what wouldn’t, and part of me wanted to just show her so she wouldn’t spend so much time trying to do it with pieces that obviously didn’t work.
It was obvious to me because I have already learned how to do this. It was not obvious to my daughter because she was still learning how to do this. And If I had just showed her how to do it right without giving her an opportunity to learn on her own, then I would actually be hindering her. Everyone has to learn how to do things on their own…or else they don’t properly learn how to think, figure things out, and learn on their own.
So even though I wanted to tell her what she was doing wrong, I didn’t. My wife had already showed her an example and then gave her instructions for how to do it…and it was up to my daughter to learn through trial and error.
As I was thinking about this, it made me think of Student Ministry.
Just like my daughter needing to learn on her own, students in student ministry need to be allowed to learn on their own as well. Through trying, failing, trying again, figuring things out, and learning for themselves.
As a Student Ministry Pastor, my job is to shepherd and guide students. Shepherd and guide them in how to grow in their faith, how to know how to understand God’s Word, and how to show others what they believe in their words and actions. It’s a big responsibility to shepherd and guide them in this.
But, it’s not my responsibility do it for them. In fact, I can’t do it for them. I cannot transfer my faith and knowledge into their minds so they know what I know and do what I do. I can teach them, give them examples of how, and challenge them to do it…but then I have to stand back and watch them figure out it. I am there to help them when they need help, show them what they are doing wrong if I need to do so, and put them back on course. But I cannot learn and grow for them.
Nor should I want to. I must understand that they need to learn on their own so they can grow and develop their own faith. I had to learn how to grow and develop my own faith. And I should show them how to do it and help them as they do it…but I should not try to take over and do it for them.
2 verses that come to my mind concerning this are Ephesians 4:12 and 2 Timothy 2:15.
Ephesians 4:12 says to “equip the saints…”. That means that we as the leaders give people the skills they need to learn, grow, and serve. But then we have to step back and let them put into practice what we have shown them. They will never become fully equipped if we keep doing it for them when they make mistakes.
2 Timothy 2:15 talks about “rightly handling the word of truth”. Again, we as the leaders show students how to study God’s Word and know what it says, but then we have to give them the opportunity to study God’s Word on their own. We can’t always stand next to them as they read God’s Word, we have to allow them to learn how to properly understand it and apply it on their own. That’s how they grow in their own faith.
I love my job. I love getting to teach, lead, guide, shepherd, and help students grow and develop their faith and understanding of God and his Word. I absolutely love it! And the best part is when I see them getting it on their own…
When I have a student go through our CRAVE training, and then later hear them talking about what they’ve been reading in God’s Word and what they are learning from it.
When I have students talk to me about starting and running a student-led Bible Study or Small Group.
When students share with them that they desire to come alongside another student who is struggling because they want to help them.
When a student tells me how they are sharing their faith in school.
When a student has a desire to serve others, either on their own or by participating in of our Service Projects or Mission Trips.
Parents, we must allow our children the ability to learn and grow. Student Ministry Pastors and Leaders, we need to allow the students in their ministry to do the same. It’s not always at the pace we want, and sometimes it can be frustrating when it seems like they are taking steps backward rather than forward. But we must be patient and allow them to learn. Be there to help, continue to guide as necessary, and allow them to learn and grow.