Sometimes the way we treat new believers is kind of like the Hot Pocket. We want to microwave them to “ready” – ready to be different, ready to abandon their friends, ready to make a stand for Christ, ready to give their testimony and lead the youth group to a new and glorious future! We don’t wait until the passion has cooled enough to have a practical conversation with them, or until we spend enough time with them to discern the spiritual traps in their lives before we put them into leadership…and we get burned. So we drop them, mad at how THEY burned US and unsure if we want to risk another furry tongue by giving them another chance. Conversely, they feel tricked, abandoned, and return back to their lives where at least they knew what to expect. Let’s hit rewind and try this again. What did we learn?
Lesson #1 – Things we microwave get too hot, too fast.
The decision to follow Christ is an expensive one so let’s start by informing students of the cost up front and let them make an informed commitment for the long term rather than an emotional one. Avoid pressing students who are in pain, looking for your acceptance, or who are lonely into a relationship with Jesus. Also, be VERY careful what you promise them – a relationship with Jesus most often does NOT change their situation, but instead can change their perspective and their heart.
Lesson #2 – Give it some time or you’ll get burned.
In the first days after a student has made the decision to follow Christ, it is crucial to walk alongside them, partner them with other strong believers, and listen closely to help them navigate the changes in the weeks ahead. They may have a network of friends, habits, and thought processes that they want to change, but aren’t sure how. If we are available to answer those questions, we can help them navigate their way to real change. We need to be careful not to put students into leadership positions before they have had the opportunity to walk a different way for a season.
Lesson #3 – Don’t blame the Hot Pocket – it’s not personal.
New believers make new mistakes – isn’t that GREAT?! NEW mistakes! They also may make some familiar ones so let’s make sure we remember how many times we have repeated mistakes before coming down too hard on them. Give them room to fail, but hope for success. A good friend of mine once said, [bctt tweet=”“People don’t need my disappointment in them – they already have plenty of their own.”” via=”no”] Use compassion in the necessary confrontations and remember their failure is not personal – they weren’t aiming at you. New believers are learning a new way because they chose to – help make the choice easier by showing them they are not alone in it.
Who are the newest believers in your student ministry? Do they know you are rooting for them? Take some time this week and listen for an opportunity to ask them “How’s it between you and God lately?” and give them permission to say “Not great.” Even if they are doing stellar, asking them “How can I help?” shows them you are willing to invest time for the long haul, not just reach for the microwave moment.