…before they had out into the world.
In one of my very first posts on this blog, I shared about graduating seniors and wondering what kind of questions we should be asking to make sure kids were spiritually ready of the world.
The article was not meant to encourage some kind of spiritual purity test for graduates but rather an encouragement for youth workers to create a way to judge their own effectiveness as they launched kids into this thing called life.
Example: By the time a student graduates, what should they know about the Bible, God etc. and can they explain the plan of salvation, the timeline of the end times and quote Numbers with poetic flair.
If you think these subjects are important for graduating seniors to know, you should start teaching it to your freshmen or middle school students now.
No matter what the questions are, our students may not (read as: more than likely will not) be able to answer all your questions (or even one) due to the fact that they may not find the material relevant (now) or they’ve just forgotten.
Teens want to know, “Is it on the test?” because if it’s not, they need the space for…well… anything else.
Most of my students will not quote chapter and verse upon graduation, so where does that leave me? Ultimately, my hope is that my example and, more importantly, the example of their parents, will lead to their understanding of often hard and complex spiritual truths.
This thought brings me to the seven things I want my students to understand before they graduate, but in asking the questions, it’s led me to examine my own life and ministry. It’s not just about what I am teaching but how and if I am living what I am teaching.
Do you understand that God loves you, no matter what?
“Did I loved you no matter what? Did I love you when you snuck out of the cabin to launch all the canoes into the water? Did I show grace and mercy when you blew it big time and I did’t cast you away? Did I affirm God’s long suffering and patience? Did I forgive and ask for forgiveness? Did I
Do you understand the Bible is where you find truth?
Did I show you that I loved God’s word? Did I show you it was my go to book for wisdom? Did I treat the scripture with care when I spoke? Was scripture integrated and foundational to the counsel I gave you? Did you see me read the Bible when I wasn’t preaching?
Do you understand that Church is about community and connection?
Did I bad-mouth our church to score points or did I do my best to explain that we’re not a perfect group of people and we’re all on this journey together? Did I participate in service rather than spectate? Was I engaged or aloof? Did I integrate you with the adult congregation enough so that some of that ancient wisdom rubbed off on you?
Do you understand that prayer is a conversation?
Did I demonstrate that you ought to listen more and talk less? Did I show you how to pray for and through hard things? Did I pray with you as well as pray for you? Did I show prayer as a joy or as drudgery? Was prayer just something we did before we ate pizza or went on the mission trip? Did I show that our Heavenly Father desires to hear from, and to fellowship with, us?
Do you understand the difference between believing in God and following Jesus?
Did I show you what a disciple looks like? Did I show you that when I got it wrong I didn’t quit but pushed on? Did you see that you can mess up and continue to follow Jesus? Did I show you what sacrifice looked like? Did I live like God was real, Jesus was my only hope and not just a nice idea? Did I show you that their was more to the Christian life than coming to youth group, church, reading your Bible, and giving in the offering?
Do you understand that you are called to influence others for good?
Did I tell you over and over again that God can use your talents and gifts to make an impact on the world around you? Did show you how to us influence to glorify God rather than yourself? Did I give you every opportunity to use your gifts and talents? Did I crest space for you to rap, draw, paint, and create for God?
Do you understand how to come back to God, should you wander off?
Was I grace filled? Did I make it easy or hard to come back from the brink? Did I reveal a pattern of how God gladly receives us when we are repentant and contrite? Did I show you that humility goes a long way and that pride is a killer?
And how does a student understand? Was it because of my great talks or the epic game nights? Probably not. Their understanding of a big concept came through the examples of the people around them.
Graduation is not about just about the things they know or learned, but it’s about the things they have been shown and experienced, the examples they’ve been given. What did they see and remember versus what they read or heard and forgot.
This is why Jesus not only taught in parables, but was a living parable. The disciples only “got it” when they saw it, was a part of it, and experienced it.
My graduates may not recall my messages and lessons but they will remember my example.