Our town recently experienced some wind storms. It wasn’t quite a hurricane but it was enough to make things very unpleasant. We watched large commercial-grade trash cans (you know, the heavy ones with the wheels and attached lids) tumble down the street. It sounded like there was a monster attacking, debris was flying, and I had to hold on tight to my 4-year-olds so they weren’t blown away on the short walk from the house to the car. Our house is surrounded by tall trees and there were a few gusts of wind that made that fact a little frightening. Luckily the only things that fell were small branches; the trees stood strong in the wind. I was very thankful they didn’t fall over, and the reason they didn’t is because they have very deep roots.
Roots are important to a tree because they keep it standing when storms hit. In the same way, roots are very important for our students when the storms of life hit. Life is not easy, we are often tossed by storms and experience wind in our lives. Divorce, sickness, death, violence, uncertainty, and more are all things our students face. They are not easy to stand up to but when our students are grounded and their roots are deep, they may be shaken but are less likely to be ripped up and blown over.
So, what does this mean for our student ministries? How do we help students stand when storms come?
We must help students grow deep roots
The most important part of teaching is the practical application; if students don’t know what to do with the information you give them then the information is pointless. But far too often I see youth lessons that attempt practicality and fail to teach anything solid. For instance… “In tough times, remember, God loves you” or “When someone is mean, love them like Jesus would.”
Like I said, these are excellent and true points that need to be taught but we need to go deeper than that. Students need to learn who this God is that loves them. They need to know the character and heart of the Jesus who forgives. We need to teach our students the theology behind God, Jesus, sin, our world, etc. That is where the roots come from.
Fruit and roots work hand in hand
Now, I’m not saying this should be the focus of every message, it shouldn’t be. In fact, teaching only deep theology and no practical application comes with its own set of problems.
But we must plan on teaching our students theology so they understand the basis and core of the faith. I try to do a series dedicated to teaching theology at least once a year in my ministry. Does this mean it has to be boring and not touch on any real life issues? Not at all! The truth is theological subjects do have very practical applications to life.
The fruit in one’s life is visible; it’s the implementation of the practical knowledge and life advice they have been given. However, good fruit is produced by good roots. Just like an actual fruit tree, good fruit is only produced when healthy roots are present. Without healthy roots, the tree may produce fruit for a quick season or it may produce fruit that looks good but is rotten. With deep healthy roots, good fruit grows in abundance. The roots and the fruits go hand in hand.
Be intentional with what you teach
None of this happens by accident so be intentional about what you teach. Craft each message with care and attention, making sure you are not simply giving students witty catchphrases or fluffy feel-good points, but rather substance that will withstand the storm. Planning can be the biggest part of that, check out this post 5 Tips For Planning Your Teaching Calendar for some help with planning that content.
You don’t have to give a college course to your middle schoolers, but you should at least give them the basics behind the essentials of the faith and help them understand so that their roots can grow deep.
Todd has been in youth ministry for over a decade and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com
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