What does it mean to belong? It is a question I have asked myself so many times.
Hi, if we haven’t met before my name is Nate Hayden and I am the new Student Ministries Pastor at Westbrook.
As I prayed about how we want to orient student ministries at Westbrook I kept being reminded of a phrase Kevin had said to me in my interview, “Belong Before You Believe”.
I started to think about what it would look like to simply invite students to be a part of our community built around God and focused on living and loving like Jesus but, allow them to build their relationship with God in their own time. As I thought about this model, I was brought back to the story of how Jesus called His disciples. Jesus did not ask them to pledge their lives to Him when they first met but rather, He simply invited them to follow Him.
He spent three years building relationships with each of them. He ate and drank with them and taught them more and more about how to live. However, even after three years of living with Jesus they still did not fully believe that Jesus was who He said He was. When He was arrested, they scattered. When He was on trial, they denied him. When He had died, they believed that that was the end. They had spent every waking moment for three years of their lives living directly with Jesus and they still weren’t fully committed to Him.
This story might be disheartening to some but to me it means that all of us have hope. We have a God that is willing to let us take our time building a relationship with Him. Our God is patiently waiting for us to learn to trust Him, and we can learn a lesson of how to reach our students this same way. We can be both radically invitational and immensely challenging.
We can be radically invitational by saying you belong in our youth group no matter what you believe. We have a spot for you in our group because God has a spot for you in His.
We must also be immensely challenging. We must encourage our students to ask questions and wrestle with who God is and how they fit into His story.
When we are radically invitational and immensely challenging, we have the ability to invite students into our doors and send them out with a message that is transformational for both them and for their friends and family.
At Westbrook, “Belong Before You Believe” is more than a slogan but it truly is how we can tell our students about Christ and invite them to be in the most important relationship they will ever have, between Jesus and us.