Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Give Your Students a Backstage Pass

At a concert, one of the most coveted items for superfans to obtain is a backstage pass. Not only does the concertgoer get the chance to enjoy an incredible concert, but a backstage pass usually gives them the chance to meet the members of the band. Depending on the venue, one may even have the opportunity to view the stage from a completely different angle. They see the same concert that everyone else sees, but there are elements of the production witnessed behind stage that can never be experienced from the viewpoint of the general audience. Yet even though an individual witnesses exclusive things backstage and is allowed to connect more with the members of the band, they don’t board the tour bus and see everything that occurs on the road, good or bad.

What would your youth ministry look like if you gave your students a backstage pass to your life? Instead of just telling them about God, what would it look like to give your students the opportunity to have a glimpse into your life and show them what it means to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? While this type of youth ministry does not mean that they will know absolutely everything that goes on in your life, it will change the manner in how you perceive the students you minister to. Giving them a backstage pass means that they aren’t just prayer projects or teens that we go to visit once a week. Instead, it becomes a ministry where you let them in to your life often enough for them to be able to observe you pursuing a life of faith. Certainly, this can involve activities like inviting your group of students over to your house, going on a retreat, playing games, going out to a movie, or having dinner with them and then grabbing some ice cream. But activities alone are not enough to create relationships that engage and transform the heart.

When working inside youth ministry, transparency is a powerful tool that can be used to build trust and connection. While discernment remains key to knowing what to say and how to say it, our youth need to know that you’re on their side. They need to know that you will fight alongside them on the battlefield of spiritual warfare, rather than shout advice from the top of a hill a mile away. They need to know you’ve got their back, and that they can have your back, too, if you’re willing to let them into your heart. If it is only the student that exhibits transparency within a conversation between them and their youth leader, that’s not relationship—that’s coaching. In this scenario, ministry is pointed to flow in only one direction, and it stops as soon as the student no longer has questions to ask or answers to seek. However, when a youth leader or a youth pastor leads first by being transparent about their own spiritual journey to the student, it is a movement away from coaching and towards the realm of relationship.

To establish this type of “backstage pass” relationship, the ball is NOT in the student’s court to make the first move. The ball is in your court. While a student will be pleasantly surprised and would most certainly welcome the experience of their youth leader taking the first step at being transparent, they aren’t holding their breath and waiting in anticipation for it to occur. Just as we were before we gave our lives to Christ, a life in pursuit of the Lord was not on our radar. But God had a plan and through His word, He has been magnificently transparent. He chased after you and I and He first made efforts to initiate a genuine relationship with us.

The concept of transparency with students may be a subtle shift to how you engage your youth, but it can be life transforming. Giving our students a backstage pass to our lives serves a few different purposes. First, it communicates to our students that we see them as peers and coheirs of the kingdom instead of kids that need to be told the do’s and don’ts of Christianity. Second, it helps them begin to understand what it looks like to be a good friend that cares for their neighbor within a world that incessantly promotes the desires of the self. And finally, giving your students a backstage pass brings them into contact with your spiritual life often enough to hold you accountable in pursuing your own relationship with the Lord, so that you may be a humble example for others (Philippians 3:17).

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