Lunch with a minister. If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be? Obviously, it wouldn’t be me. On Thursday I had a wonderful opportunity to discuss our church’s youth ministry program with a student from Oklahoma Christian. He needed to meet with a minister for class credit and I was honored to lend my assistance. This dude was passionate about ministry and came with some great questions that engaged youth culture and my own philosophy of ministry.

How do you stay fresh? Ministry is my passion and it’s my job. And with that come blurred lines between the two that can result in exhaustion. Therefore, I attempt to leave some time for “myself.” Wow, that sounds completely selfish; let me explain. On my days off, I can sometimes feel obligated or even guilty that I am not going to more events to encourage and deepen my relationships with students. Sometimes to be a good minister, I feel like I have to be at everything. But, this isn’t healthy, nor will be beneficial in the long run. I love my students, but I must allow time for other relationships as well. With my wife, family, and friends I am able to keep myself aware of the relationships that exist outside of ministry which refuels me and gives me a break from ministry inside of a Teen Vogue magazine.

How do you discuss politics and the civil rights issues of today? Wow, I don’t think I have ever expressed verbally the explicit impacts of the political world within youth culture before. I know that this is a huge area of concern for people in the church and continuously evaluated by ministers. Sometimes, it is difficult to answer everything that happens in politics through a Christian lens. Anyway, we rarely have students that keep up with the realm of politics much less talk about them (some students don’t even know about Black Lives Matter or Womens’ Marches which blows my mind). And I think that’s totally fine; some disengagement is healthy, especially through adolescent years. It does affect them, though, whether we know it or not. Through particular voices in social media, family members, and, yes, people at church, their sociological view of the world is being shaped. When they hear others talk about politics, religious and civil groups, and other ethnicities, they are learning to evaluate people. As a minister, my first priority when it comes to politics and civil rights is to teach them to advance in discussion with a voice of love and compassion. When it comes to racial divides, LGBTQ rights, or people claiming that we are seeing a political dystopian, my ultimate desire is for students to approach others with sincerity, compassion, and always see them as people crafted by God.

How do you create an open dialogue? At church, we typically teach instruction rather than a process for dialogue when it comes to components of belief and faith. We’ve learned that from an educational standpoint, this rarely leads to engagement and an interest among students, so why would we use the same formula for teaching about Jesus? There are some youth ministers that believe students should be taught and rarely involved in discussion. The last thing I want is a graduate stepping foot into the outside world thinking they know everything under the sun (this is crazy to ask of a teenager right!?!?!), having such a definitive scope on subjects of faith, and crumble when they hear an opposing view. The great thing about college is that it fosters discussions like these. It forces students to talk about their faith and why they believe what they do. We should be having these discussions prior to this point though. If we expect students to be able to protect their faith and share the Good News, then we should prepare them to do so. I am always excited to share The Gospel and any competing ideas with students to help build a solid foundation for engaging a culture that appears to be fluid on the concept of truth.

Talking it out. This is how we understand what truth is. We must constantly be observing and talking. With knowledge of The Word, the issues of humanity, and maintaining an open dialogue, we can actually become disciples of Christ that make an impact upon a broken world. It was exciting to talk to someone that is developing the ability to articulate beliefs and faith. I hope as he learns from my experiences, I can learn from his. Hopefully, we can develop teens to be students and not just hearers, to be able to identify what and why they believe what they do, and use this truth to engage the world they are in.