“One of the most important aspects to a balanced and thriving student ministry is having an intentional scope and sequence to your curriculum. We must be intentional with what we teach and to use the limited amount of time we have with our students well. And while many of you are thoughtful about your teaching and are biblically deep, contextually astute, and clever as all get out, there might be one significant area that gets left out.
I am sure that you would agree that our culture is getting more and more coarse. Students are increasingly self-absorbed and rude. Maybe the truth is that you don’t even realize it anymore or have simply died to it. Maybe you think that you will lose street cred if you push back against their entitlement mentality. Or maybe you are satisfied that you can at last get them to say grace when you are all together for a meal.
As students become more and more isolated, they have fewer and fewer places in their lives where they actually have to consider others. Their music choices, their movie choices, their food choices are all individualized. Whatever they want whenever they want it is their instinct and highest value. If at any time a student is done paying attention in a group, they simply need to plug-in their ear buds, check facebook, and check out.
Why manners are important:
Forever manners have been the social contract used to teach people how to interact in society. Manners are the habits that remind us that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Please and thank you are the words we use to realize that when we take things or use things they were first someone else’s to begin with. Ladies first, holding the door for others, or allowing those older than you to sleep on the couch when on a youth group road trip are ways to graciously put others needs above our own and to remember that our needs and desires are not the utmost of importance. Eye contact and follow up questions affirm and validate others and remind us that our view is not the one and only.
Everyone else has seem to let manners slide and our culture validates and lifts up the core value of “getting yours.” But this should not be the case. Manners are of utmost importance and actually part of our spiritual formation. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”
We love the concept of loving others. We focus on loving the poor for a weekend urban mission trip, or loving others by, well actually, we don’t have any other examples. One main way that we actually put into practice loving others and considering others above ourselves is by implementing old school manners. And if we don’t teach them, no one will.
Here are some of the manners that we are trying instilling in our students:”
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I am just like you.I am average in just about every way. I am an average person of average height, slightly above average weight, and average looks. I work at an average church. I have an average sized youth group with average students. Basically, I am an average youth worker. And, thankfully God has chosen to use the common and average things of this world to glorify his son and expand his kingdom.
I love sharing ministry with my fellow youth workers. I only have so many ideas, so much patience, and so many answers. But when we get together for area network lunches, with denominational clusters, or on-line, something amazing happens, the combination of my commonness and your commonness somehow allows the body of Christ to flourish.
I am only a small, common part of the body of Christ. I want to settle into that truth and quit being anxious about not doing ministry right or being striving to be better than someone else, and instead spend that time and energy focused on loving the snot out of my students into the kingdom of god.