Each Wednesday this summer we are doing fun events with our middle school students. Pool parties, bowling, beach trips, dodgeball tournaments, movie nights, and because we live in the desert, more pool parties and beach trips.
Sometimes people ask: What’s with all of the fun? What about discipleship? I believe such questions reveal a false construct. Fun and faith are not mutually exclusive and/or incompatible.
We believe that the best approach to ministry is relational. In order to have discussions about the weighty topics of faith, relational bridges must be built that are strong enough to support such conversations without collapsing. The integrity of those bridges is trust, and trust takes time to be established. We begin the process of building relationships and trust simply. We start by speaking a universal language that every kid can understand: Fun. As they have fun, they begin to open up to the possibility of friendships. As friendships are formed, we can then engage in conversations about things that are important – conversations that come natural in the context of friendship.
Friends can talk to one another about anything, be honest, and feel that even if they don’t agree, they’re still friends. It is important that once the relational bridge has been built we dare to broach subjects of faith. We cannot stop short. But it is likewise important to note that our goal is not to “close the deal.” We’re not salesmen; we’re farmers who are called by God to partner with him in His work in the world. (1 Corinthians 3:5-17) Our goal is to simply cross the relational bridges that God has asked us to build and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in the hearts of those we have built relationships with. It’s not … let’s have fun until we’re friends; then we’ll be friends until you come to faith, but if you don’t come to faith we can’t be friends. We’re not in the business of bait and switch. It’s let’s have fun. Let’s be friends. Let’s have conversations about faith. And lets leave the results up to God.
So here’s our simple process: Fun – Friends – Faith.