how can we shepherd our students’ service and social justice?

Earlier this week, I reflected on the need for us to avoid the easy road of just “doing service” with our students, even though we’re in a climate when volunteerism, social justice, and compassionate concern are all the rage. Let’s tie into that cultural fad, to be sure, but let’s make sure we couple doing service with shepherding.

What does this look like? I can think of two biggie principles I’d at least want to make sure to focus on.

Shepherding means pointing students to the biblical motivations for service.


That’s the question we’ve got to answer before it’s asked, because it’ll be rare for today’s students to even ask it! But doing service without a biblical motivation is, at best, simply secular – and pretty easily tiptoes into the low-grade legalism our students are extremely susceptible to.

If we’ve ordained that Service, Social Justice, or some similar theme will be part of the “DNA” of our ministry and yet we haven’t made this a ministry-wide teaching point, I honestly believe we’re doing a grave disservice to our students. Without the biblical whys, they’re either “doing good just ’cause,” they’ll quit doing good after awhile, or both.

Shepherding means training students in serving well.

If you’ve got to pick one, choose the above thing. Biblical motivations will likely lead to pretty impactful service all by themselves.

But in our role as shepherds, we have the chance to raise up servants who are actually really good at serving. It’s that whole “loving in deed and truth” thing. It’s serving “with the strength God supplies.” It’s serving in ways not like somebody “running aimlessly” or “beating the air.” Instead, we shepherd servants who more and more land their punches, actually impacting the people and groups and world they’re aiming to impact.

I think this sort of shepherding – shepherding the how of service – will take two courses, and they’re both important. We’ll give our students all sorts of biblical principles for creating a giant impact in the world. And we’ll also offer them all the wisdom we – and plenty of others – have on the practical skills of service.

Of course, love covers over a multitude of sins, and really loving the people we serve has a way of working out the kinks in our service. But still we’re commanded to love in deed and truth and not just word or tongue. If we really examined the servanthood of our college students, what percentage of their service really exemplifies the “deed and truth” variety?

More thoughts to come. [Find the next post in this thought-train, on things we need to shepherd students away from, right here.]


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