Generally, a youth pastor’s top priority is to help the students in their churches learn to follow Jesus. But the fact is that your students spend five days a week, seven or more hours a day, 180 days a year at school – at least five times as many hours as they spend at church. School, not church, is the environment they spend the most time in. Becoming followers of Jesus must include following Him all that time they spend at school. But that’s not a bad thing. Here’s why:
1. If your students can live their faith at school, that’s great evidence that their faith is genuine.
Scripture speaks a lot about the testing of our faith. In fact, it’s been said that an untested faith is no faith at all. As we all know, anybody can be a Christian at church – that’s easy. But school forces students to decide every day to honor God, or not. School is second only to home as an indicator of how real a student’s faith is.
2. If your students can serve God in their schools, they’ll be able to do it anywhere.
We all know Jesus’ pattern for the growth of the church in Acts 1:8 – “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Your students’ schools are their Jerusalem! Whatever God has in store for the rest of their life, nothing will prepare them better than being a witness right now right where they are. In fact, if they can do ministry in that environment, they’ll be ready to go anywhere God sends them! According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 90% of American kids go to public school. This fact alone makes public schools a great mission field for your students.
3. If they face challenge of living and sharing their faith at school, they will feel the need of what you teach them at youth group.
As Greg Stier points out, evangelism fuels and creates a hunger for discipleship - “…challenging our teens to take the risk of evangelism can lead to the reward of our teens growing deeper in their faith faster than we could have ever imagined. Evangelism, especially among one’s friends, makes you desperately dependent on God’s Spirit. And it is this dependency which produces spiritual growth (John 15:1-8.).” I believe Jesus sent his disciples on short term mission trips for this very reason. They came back wanting to learn more!
Obviously, public school is not the right place for all students, but I believe that encouraging your students in school to live their faith there is one of the greatest ways to apply everything you teach them. Here are just a few practical ideas to help them live out their faith.
• Carry their Bible to school (a great conversation starter)
• Sit with the kid at lunch who is always alone
• Ask their friends, “How can I pray for you?”
• Pray over their food at lunch time
• Start a campus ministry (a great way to develop their leadership skills)
• Lead outreaches on campus
Do you want to make sure your students are following Jesus after they leave your youth ministry? Public schools give you a chance to help them follow Jesus when you aren’t around right now.