School is where most young people spend the majority of their time each week and so the church needs to work hard at helping them and encouraging them to live for God whilst at school. I find that often students haven’t thought about school from God’s perspective. It is as if it is just something they have to do, somewhere they have to be for a set number of years and life is what happens around it. The reality, of course, is that school provides them with an opportunity to share God’s love with more peers than perhaps they may ever have at one time in their lifetime.
There’s a great quote from Matt Summerfield and Chris Evans in their book, ‘Influencers’:
‘Have you ever imagined what would happen if Jesus walked the corridors of your school or college today? If the Holy Spirit moved through the vents? Well Jesus might not be physically walking the corridors of your school or college today, but guess what? You’re there! And he wants to walk the corridors through you, impacting the lives of everyone you meet. Not only that, but you have the Holy Spirit in you and if God is King of your life then there’s fantastic news … God’s Kingdom can be built in your community through God at work in you.’
So how can we, as leaders, help prepare young people for all that God is wanting to do in their schools?
We need to raise our commitment to pray for them and their schools. Pray for the schools regularly as part of our youth groups and church services. Encourage them to find another Christian in their school who they can meet up with for 15 minutes each week to pray specifically for their school and their witness to their classmates.
2. Show God’s love
This can be really difficult for a young person. As they grow and develop, there is often a tension between wanting to be your own person, independent and unique, yet also not wanting to stand out as different or unpopular. What we can do is encourage them to look for opportunities to show God’s love to others each day. This might mean by keeping a place in the lunch queue for a friend, waiting with a friend at the bus-stop until their bus comes, talking to the person who’s parents have just split up or even thanking a teacher for the lesson they have just had. Helping them to show respect to everyone would make a massive difference in the school environment.
3. Prepare for difficult questions
It is hard standing up for our faith, especially when surrounded by a majority of people who don’t share that belief. We need to help young people be ready for these times when they need to explain why they believe what they believe. So make sure in your youth group’s programme there are times when you help them work out how to handle questions, not so that they can win an argument but so that they can speak with confidence about their own experience of knowing Jesus. Help them to talk about their relationship with God in a normal way. How do they know God exists? What difference does he make to them? How do they see God at work today? These are good questions to help them consider as well as typical apologetics such as suffering, ethics and judgement.
4. Look for God at work
Ask them what school would look like if God was in charge. What things would change? Try to help them see what this might look like and then look for ways to start implementing these changes. God is at work at school and he wants to use his children to bring about transformation. Maybe you could have a term where you meet each week at youth group to plan one thing that they could do to show God at work in their school and then feedback at the next youth group meeting and plan the next step. Encourage them to keep a record of answers to prayer, good conversations and opportunities to share God’s love with those around them.
5. Keep encouraging them
When you know someone has a test or an exam they are concerned about, send them a timely reminder to say that you’re praying. If you know someone is having a difficult time at school, pray for them and tell them that is what you’re doing. Look for ways to support them and to inspire them to keep living for Jesus even when it seems difficult. Encourage them to take risks in their faith and to share God’s love as much as they can. Be there in the good times and the difficult times, when they pass exams and when they fail, when friendships flourish and when gossip destroys. Be their chief encourager.
The school years can be really difficult for many young people but by helping them to see how God is at work and how they can make the most of these years will help them learn to put their trust in God each day and to grow in relationship with him. Make sure it’s a part of your regular youth programme.
In what ways do you help your teenagers at school? What have you found helpful? What are the hardest areas of school life for Christians? Please leave a comment or suggestion below.