Raw and full of idealism, students are some of my favourite people to spend time with! I love their curiosity and search for meaning and answers as well as their confidence and optimism. As a Church Leader, it is my belief that investing in student ministry is one of the most strategic keys to city progress and kingdom transformation that we possess.
The hunger to learn something, that can one day be applied to the world to bring progress or contribute towards change, is an embryonic seed buried deep in the heart of all of humanity. Students who have just left home for the first time with drive and ambition are no exception to this. When this is mixed with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the biblical narrative our role becomes a potential cocktail for explosive leadership development and future social transformation.
We are people created in the image of the creator God, people who were given the mandate in Genesis to partner with our genius God to make what He called GOOD but never said was finished – to make it even better, to create culture, to innovate and develop ideas and solutions. I love this quote from Michael Novak about the goodness yet unfinishedness of God’s creation:
“Creation left to itself is incomplete, and humans are called to be co-creators with God, bringing forth the potential the Creator has hidden. Creation is full of secrets waiting to be discovered, riddles which human intelligence is expected,by the Creator to be unlocked. The world did not spring from the hand of God as wealthy as humans might make it.”
What God had made perfect was “not finished yet.” There were families to be born, people groups to be established, cities to be developed, nations to be built. The imago Dei was to populate the earth. There were seeds to be planted, vineyards to be established, music to be scored, dances to be choreographed, poems to be written, ballads to be sung, art to be sculpted and painted.
Image bearers are to be sent to every corner of the world, to make culture, to fill the earth with the knowledge of God.
God’s original design was for us to rule with Him, bearing His image and nature and to reveal that to the world. Tarnished by the fall, humanity’s purpose was left broken and marred but we know the end of the story….. Redeemed by the life changing power of heaven come down in the form of God’s own son, Jesus, means that through relationship with Him, we can jump back on track to take up our role with Him. Co-working to see His kingdom come we not only make disciples but we bring heaven to earth.
Student’s natural ambition and drive to “do something with their lives”, mixed with the opportunity to be shaped, challenged and invested in as part of a church family grows that image. As a local church we want to develop and champion the raw gifts and skills that God has put within them, teaching what it means to be sons and daughters.
Being safe and secure enough to take risks, being empowered by the life giving spirit of God are the perfect ingredients for the positioning of culture shapers. As a result they can point their life and leadership to bring the kingdom of heaven into all different spheres of society, to impact the city!
I remember meeting a new friend at church when I was a nervous fresher. We had both just left home for the first time and embarked on our university life, I was studying psychology, my friend was training to be a teacher. She embodied all the things I have described above, intelligence, passion, creativeness and she knew somewhere within herself that she held a seed that could bring transformation to the world. Being part of the student community together at our local church, we challenged and shaped each other’s dreams for the future, called out the best in one another and championed and celebrated growth.
Twenty years on, it’s been a joy to see my friend walk into her dreams, she is an executive headteacher of an outstanding primary school, oversees a teaching school, and she leads an alliance of schools. She lives out a vision to bring social justice to children through education, to create a haven in which children can flourish and to develop leaders within schools that encourage children to win.
I love to think about the 18 year olds who will join us in Lincoln this year and wonder where they could be in 20 years time. Our city and other communities in the nation could be better off because of the way these young people grow into themselves and create a better future. As they plant their lives in the soil of the church family and apply their God given gifts and talents they will bring a beautiful reflection of their creator God to the world around them, innovating, creating, leading and serving. What an incredible opportunity we have to shape the future of our cities and the nations.
Joy, along with her husband Paul, is the Site Pastor at Alive Lincoln. She supports Andrew & Bev as they lead the Campus Awakening Hub in the city and also plays a key role in helping us to dream and strategise for where The Lord is leading us.