Depending on your upbringing, an awkward discomfort might befall you when people start to talk about the Holy Spirit. We’re not talking about some type of mystical, translucent figure who is visiting like, “The Ghost of Christmas Past” in A Christmas Carol. The Holy Spirit is not the strange uncle of the Trinity, nor is He only experienced solely through charismatic outbursts or exorbitant, outward-facing expressions. As Student Ministry leaders, we are always on high alert to make sure that we are allowing the young men and women in our care to receive sound doctrine, genuine relationships and an authentic encounter with God. There will always be ambiguity when it comes to matters of faith and especially in regards to the move of the Spirit, but there are foundations that will act as guard rails to keep us in line with the Word of God.
1. Create “Space”
Creating space in your programming for students to have an encounter with God feels like a no-brainer for a lot of leaders. The more of a “feeler” you are, the easier this is to naturally flow out of a ministry that you lead. However, just as many leaders lean on the intellectual side of faith (ie. apologetics, doctrine, systems of leadership) as those who lean on the experiential side. Sometimes youth services can be a whirlwind of dodgeball, snacks, loud music and hangout time. We will go full throttle once the clock strikes 7:00 and get wrapped up in the events of the night, moving from one part to the other. Making space simply looks like including time in the night for the students and leaders to RESPOND to what God may have been speaking to them through the course of the night. We can, and should, take time to let students sit under the weight of the Scripture/teaching, invite the Holy Spirit to come, and wait on Him to move as He sees fit.
2. Teach on the Holy Spirit
Even students who have come up through the ranks of an incredible Children’s Ministry, midweek Bible groups, and a solid foundation at home can be confused on who the Spirit is, what His role in their lives might be, and how they might encounter Him. We see in Acts 1:8 that the Holy Spirit came to empower the believers to be witnesses of Christ as the Messiah and Jesus also talks about the Holy Spirit as a great comforter. It’s easy to see an encounter with the Holy Spirit as somewhat of an emotional response to a “feeling” that a student has during the service. We see that when we truly understand the Spirit’s role in the Trinity that it is so much more than that. The Spirit will empower us to go out and tell those around us that we have found the hope of Christ and that it is available for them as well. He comforts us in times of trouble and reminds us that the Lord of all creation abides with us!
3. Demystify the Holy Spirit
An unintended consequence of knowing and serving a God that we cannot see is that some would make Him to be inaccessible unless you are “in the club”. We work really hard to model to students that the Spirit moves in ways that are natural, understandable, and relevant to their lives. You don’t have to be on “Spiritual Level 10+” to receive a word of knowledge. We are all ordinary men and women who can partner with an amazing Savior and God who works in the big, life altering events of life as well as the quiet, everyday, seemingly mundane ones.
My encouragement to you is to continue to press into the Holy Spirit in your personal lives. Keep teaching, leading and loving students, and keep submitting to God doing what only God can do!