Ever heard of the app TimeHop? It's an app that uses your social media history (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and shows you each day what you said/posted that day a year ago, two years ago, and back. Carrie and I love it because we can look back at pictures of the boys and marvel at how quickly they're growing up, we can see what we were doing while we were dating and engaged by the pictures we post, and we can laugh at the long journey we both took for doctoral work.
TimeHop can teach us a few things about student ministry, both good and bad:
1) The past is great to remember, but terrible to live in - TimeHop gives us a glimpse into the past and allows us to relive the memories of newborn babies, the first months of marriage, graduation, and other important events. But those events have come and gone, and we can't try to live the "glory days" like The Boss sings about. For us in student ministry, we need to remember and cherish the memories of past camps, events, and spiritual milestones. But we can't do that at the expense of the crop of middle schoolers desperate to hear from God's Word. A lot of our students are learning to drive now, and one of the first things to teach a new driver is to glance at the rear-view mirror but focus on where you're going.
2) God has used you before, and will again - When we see TimeHop, we see really cool things that have happened before. We get to see the early days of our oldest learning to walk and talk, and we get to celebrate past things that we went through that were really special. For us in student ministry, looking back in the past is a great way to remember how God used us before. And Philippians 1:3 tells us that when God begins a work in us, He'll see it through to the end. We can claim and rest in the fact that God used us before and He's going to again. This past summer we took a group on a mission trip and some on the team had been the previous year. They got to watch (like I did) as the week unfolded and the connections were made and the Gospel was preached and hope was built into siding and roofs and decks and paint.
3) You're making a difference - Someone said they saw me mowing my yard the other day and I explained to them how helpful it is as a stress relief (I can mow it and see progress and when the job is done I can drink some water, get a shower, and admire the finished product). So often in student ministry the results don't get noticed for years, until they're a college student and they realize how important their faith is, or they get married and make the commitment to build a godly legacy. Until then the hyperactive and somewhat distracted nature of middle and high school makes you wonder if you'd rather talk to the wall because it listens better. A few months ago I saw a group picture of the first short-term mission trip we took with our students. Most of them are graduated and moved on, and looking at that picture I saw how the course of the last 6+ years shaped them for the rest of their lives.
4) What you say leaves a forever digital footprint - In ministry, the most important role is that of teacher/preacher, and we use words as our currency in that role. What we say has a huge impact, whether we actually said it or not! Matthew 12:36-37 reminds us that we will have to give an account for every word we say. That's why James says it's not for everyone to be a teacher! In student ministry, we need to remember that the words we say and the way we say them matters.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.