I recently downloaded the “Legacy Marble Countdown” app, which helps parents countdown the weeks they have left until their kiddos become adults. How old are my kids, you ask? Oh, I actually don’t have any.
I do, however, lead a small group of 10th-grade girls. Years ago, when I first sat down with my then sixth-grade girls, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Today I love every one of them much more than I could have ever expected.. So while I may not be a parent, just the same I want to make the most of the time I have with these girls.
The app tells me I have 139 weeks left to lead them. That seems like a solid number. Until I do the reverse calculations and realize I have already had 216 weeks with them. I have been leading these girls for 216 weeks and it seems like the blink of an eye. The next 139 are sure to fly by even more quickly.
In those 216 weeks I’ve done a lot. I’ve built relationships and trust, shared my stories, wrestled with them through their doubts, and helped them make sense of things that make no sense (like natural disasters and boys). They know I’ll listen to them. They know I’ll show up for them. They know that I think they’re awesome and I love them. Job done, right? I mean, what else can happen in these next 139 weeks?
I don’t know exactly. But I know what can’t happen. I know they can’t leave this ministry knowing I love and care about them, but still not be sure if this Jesus guy really loves and care about them.
If we as leaders aren’t careful, we can allow our students’ faith to become based more on trusting us to show up than on trusting God to show up. And as we well know, they are going to need to trust God to show up. Because I will fail them and I will not be enough. And when I’m not seeing them every week, that will only become even more apparent. I need to use the 139 weeks I have left with them looking to me, to help them know and trust that they can spend all of their weeks from now until forever looking to Jesus. To help them know that they are not just a group of girls I love because I’m a child of God, but fellow children who God loves. To help them know that they are the Church andthe hands and feet of Christ. To help them own their faith and live it out in such a way that it consumes every part of who they are, so they couldn’t possibly imagine denying it or walking away from it in 139 weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been trying to do this all along. But it’s only growing more crucial with each passing week. Maybe this means stepping out of the way and pushing them more. Maybe it means helping them get plugged into a consistent service role. Maybe it means trusting them to lead small group time on their own. Maybe it means encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zones, with me cheering from the sidelines more and playing in the game with them less.
I’m not sure exactly what it will look like. It will probably look a little different for every girl. But I know what it can’t look like when that app hits zero. When they are no longer walking into a student ministry environment every week, they can’t stop walking in altogether. So I’ll be praying for God to equip me to guide them to own their faith in a way that will allow God to take off with their lives. Even if that means I have to get out of the way.
How will you encourage your students to own their faith in the weeks you have left?
By Shannon Pijanowski