“Jeffrey Wright is well known around in Louisville, KY, for his antics as a physics teacher, which include exploding pumpkins, hovercraft and a scary experiment that involves a bed of nails, a cinder block and a sledgehammer.”
“But it is a simple lecture — one without props or fireballs — that leaves the greatest impression on his students each year. The talk is about Mr. Wright’s son and the meaning of life, love and family.”
“It has become an annual event at Louisville Male Traditional High School (now coed, despite its name), and it has been captured in a short documentary, ‘Wright’s Law,’ which recently won a gold medal in multimedia in the national College Photographer of the Year competition, run by the University of Missouri.” (source: New York Times)
This would be a great short story to share with your volunteers to inspire them to care for and love students in your ministry. Jeffrey Wright’s story might also be helpful for a more difficult talk on why there are hurting sick people in the world.
Helping students reach out to their peers is something that we approach quite frequently in NextGen ministry. Quite honestly, if we don’t keep it a forefront issue, it is something that is easily overlooked in the life of a student.
There’s no easy way to say it… no nice way to say it… (WARNING: blanket statement here): we are inherently selfish people. Student culture, I would say, even pushes students to selfishness.
Have it YOUR way.
Be YOUR own person.
Do YOUR own thing.
Do what feels right for YOU.
Hmmmmm… compare that to what Jesus boils the gospel message down to in Luke 10:27: loving God and loving OTHERS.
In my life, I’ve found that the more time that I spend developing my relationship with God, the more He shapes my heart to love others. This doesn’t come natural to me, a hyper-melancholy, phlegmatic personality type. I have had to be very intentional in asking God to help me in this area… to “put on my Jesus glasses” and see people the way that Jesus sees them.
So, how to integrate this in ministry?
Try to keep the “love OTHERS” message on the minds and hearts of students.
Through intertwining Jesus’ heartbeat and passion for OTHERS into our student messages and small group discussions.
Through offering a variety of opportunities for students to practice this hands-on through outreach and service projects.
By teaching students that loving OTHERS looks different for everyone.
By modeling it in our own lives as leaders and sharing stories from our personal lives when that happens.
Challenging students to pray for their friends and ask God to give them a heart for OTHERS.
God, help us as pastors to the next generation, to help our students see people the way Jesus sees them.
If I give amazing talks every Wednesday with three points and a funny story, but have not love, I might as well be talking to myself.
If I possess deep insight into the lives of NextGen students, and surprise the elder board by my depth of Bible knowledge, but have not love, I will not make a difference. If I have a fired-up faith that can wake kids up (even on Sunday mornings) but have not love, I will not be used by the Spirit to bring revival.
If I give up my ambition for fame, and I learn to be content with my salary, and if I sacrifice my body to all-nighters, week-long mission trips, and a steady diet of candy, donuts, fast-food and pizza, but have not love, it won’t get me anywhere.
Love is patient, giving us peace even when kids are late getting back to the bus. Love is kind, enabling us to speak inviting words in a world filled with sarcasm and satire. It does not envy our students who drive a better car than us, nor bemoan how we suffer for Jesus. Love is not proud, and does not worry about our image among the church’s big givers or influential leaders.
It is not rude, but listens and values others. It is not self-seeking, realizing that your ministry is not for or about you. It is not easily angered when the boys don’t follow the rules of your new game. When looking at people, it does not remember their past criticisms, but only sees the best in others.
It always protects those who have never known safety, it always inspires trust by living a life of integrity, it always holds out hope for those who have lost their way, and it will never give up on those who stray.
Love never fails. Stunning talks will be forgotten, and exciting activities will pass away. Even the most amazing retreat will move from reality to photos. Love, however, is the gift that is not forgotten, always needed, and forever impacting.
When I began in NextGen ministry, I was a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But now I have become a man, putting childish ways behind me.
Over the last few weeks the instructors of our foster care training class have mentioned the word “Advocate” several times; as a foster parent you are advocating for the child staying in your home.
The word keeps coming back to me- even when I am not doing foster care related things.
According to Webster’s dictionary the word advocate means several things. 1) To speak or write in favor of, 2) a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, and 3) a person who pleads for or in behalf of another.
As a foster parent, I know it means that I support and will help a child to live healthy and grow and developmentally, emotionally, and socially while they are living in home — to make sure the child’s best interest is considered in all things.
But, I keep thinking beyond just foster care — what does being an advocate look like in my whole life? In the Bible it talks about how Jesus is our advocate as He is the one who comes to our aid when we sin — to stand by us and pleade our case before God. And if I am supposed to be like Jesus, what does being an advocate look like for me, a 25 year old girl from Kansas?
I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions because they are often broken and cause disappointment. But this year, I felt that God gave me a word to guide my year by: Reach Out.
This year I want to reach out beyond what is comfortable to me. I want to reach out and help the hurting and the broken. I want to be stretched in order to show people how great and loving my Jesus is, not through my words but through my actions. I don’t want to judge others by how they look or the circumstance they are in; I want my heart to love them like Jesus.
There are so many hurting people that surround me each day. Individuals, both men and women, that want to know that they are worth it. They want to know, even in the midst of their problems and situations, that they are no less desirable or loved — that someone is willing to defend them.
Granted, it is only January so I am sure that I have a lot to learn this year about Reaching Out, being stretched out past my comfort zone, and learning to truly love unconditionally. But I am excited to see what is in store.
I want to reach out: whatever it looks like, whatever it feels like and wherever it takes me. My prayer is that when God opens a door for me to able to reach out, that I will be quick to respond and not reluctant. Yet, another lesson in learning to trust.
“If you want to be a bridge to Jesus for the world, prepared to be stepped on.” – Matthew Barnett, founder of the Dream Center
Guest Post: Sarah Winegarlives in Kansas with her husband, David, and dog, Trixie. She works as a teller supervisor at a local bank and assists her husband with the student ministries at their local church, The Center. She enjoys watching movies, reading books, and hanging out with friends at local coffee shops. Sarah and David are currently preparing themselves in growing their family with the journey of foster care and adoption. You can connect with Sarah and follow her journey at reachoutlove.blogspot.com.