This post is an oldie but a goodie (and edited for your edification!), and it’s really important for us to think through as our weekly teaching, small group studies, and other forms of discipleship get underway.
Key point: We have to, have to, have to connect students to the biblical whys of what we encourage them to do.
It’s tempting (for me, at least) to try to motivate students to righteousness by taking short cuts – especially in the areas that seem like no-brainers.
On the one hand, I might just hope for (or expect) them to believe me. When I point them toward church involvement or service or prayer or any other “good work,” I hope that by repetition and emphatic proclamation they might be swayed. (And many students will indeed be swayed into conformity by their leaders’ or peers’ expectations.)
Another tack we try is appealing to students’ own ideas of “common sense” morality. We all know, for example, that students can be easily drawn to Social Justice activity. So if I make comments like, “Obviously, we need to be involved in feeding the hungry,” I’m bound to get some agreement and some action.
And when either of those methods (or both) become my main means of motivation, I’m hurting my students in the end.
Yes, our time with students is limited – so shortcuts within our teaching are oh so tempting. And yes, it may annoy some students who prefer to “measure themselves by themselves” instead of deriving reasons for their righteousness from the biblical text.
But we HAVE to regularly connect the behavior we encourage with biblical truth. We have to show students why we urge the “good works” we urge. We’re not fraternities or other secular campus organizations, simply encouraging (or requiring) service hours and feel-good-about-yourself projects from some vague sense of duty.
Wanna check your ministry on this? Walk slowly through the last message you (or somebody in your ministry) gave, auditing for any “asks” that weren’t connected to a solid “why.” We may not have to give a long, detailed reason every single time we urge to righteousness… but it had better be a common theme and clearly articulated – regularly – for anything we regularly encourage.