I like the visual picture of walking with students on this journey. In the definition I gave a second ago, I intentionally did not say our role was to “lead” students in discipleship. Here’s why:
The biblical model of discipleship is grounded in relationship.
As someone who plays a meaningful role in students’ spiritual development, you must engage in real relationship with students if you have any hope to play a role in their discipleship. And this relational aspect of discipleship will dictate the assumption of different roles in the discipleship process.
It’s fun to think of these roles in terms of proximity. Many times, you will be out in front of students as you walk through this journey. In these times, you are, in fact, leading. But often, you will be walking alongside a student. These are moments where the relational bond you have enables (or maybe even demands) you to be co-learners and/or co-laborers. If we are to walk in a discipleship relationship with students, we must be open and willing to walk in front of and beside them.
But I believe the most important (and most neglected) manner in which we walk with students is to let them get out in front of us.
If we are ever going to see students truly develop a robust faith life, we have to let them lead out. We have to break free from our culture’s worst tendencies as it pertains to how we treat teenagers. We cannot be “helicopter” youth ministers. If our students are to grow into articulate, sound, transformative Christ followers, we have to encourage and allow them to boldly live out their faith.
And we have to embrace the fact that they will, at times, fail.
That’s right. We have to embrace the possibility of failure. I’m not talking about moral failure (though we will almost certainly deal with this along the journey). I’m talking about our students’ “trial-and-error approach” to owning their faith life.