Do students in your ministry get to see the cycle mentioned in the title of this post? Do they see their friends, members of their small group, even their student leaders confess when they fall hard, repent with gusto, and ultimately find public restoration?
I have no doubt that the need for confession comes up plenty in your ministry; these are, after all, college students. And not every serious fall, of course, needs to be followed by confession in the Large Group Meeting. But if our ministries are living out “confess your sins, one to another,” then absolute privacy isn’t permissible, either. Are your small groups experiencing “community” to such a degree that failings and fallings are being confessed freely and fully?
And for student leaders and – if the occasion arises – adult volunteers or staff, widening the circle on that confession is likely called for, even to the point of sharing during the Large Group.
Some of your students experienced churches where moral failings – including or especially among leaders – were largely hushed up. The leaders moved on, and students knew nothing or very little about why. And that “burns them” more than the “grown-ups” realize. Our college ministries have to provide a different model.
There’s a lot of wisdom needed here, and each and every episode of confession will have to be weighed separately. Even parsing out “struggling with sin well” versus the kind of “failing” that requires more serious consequences is a complex issue.
But this is still a topic we can use to evaluate our ministries:
- Have we built community deeply enough that confession is happening regularly in our small group / discipleship / accountability structures?
- Have we set the standard for integrity high enough among our student leaders… and have we applied that standard faithfully?
- Do we “stick with” those who fail, or do they either slink away into shame or simply find their way into another ministry? Do students regularly walk through the entire confession-restoration path within your ministry?
- Are students seeing an openness about sin, priority of confession, and pattern for restoration we hope they carry with them into their church life past graduation?