“Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be, if He were you.” – Dallas Willard
I love this quote. In just fourteen words it speaks volumes about how we apply the teachings of Jesus to the lives of students, and indeed our own lives. But how do we actually do it? What practical steps can we take to help students engage with what God is changing in their lives, thoughts, emotions, desires, and actions?
Today’s podcast is about that: a process called ‘Spiritual Formation’ (definition provided before we discuss it!).
Dr Lucy Peppiatt (Principal, Westminster Theological Centre) is our guest, and she offers so many insights on this journey. Lucy has particular experience of this as the co-leader of Crossnet Church, which has a congregation of (predominantly) students and young adults.
Listening back to this episode, I’m struck by three particular things Lucy mentions when I ask her what she does to help students engage with God’s work in their lives.
3 ways facilitate spiritual formation in student ministry
1) Mix up the generations
Depending on your church context, this probably either comes so naturally or is really challenging (at The Belfrey, we’re definitely the latter). There are some advantages to having a big student ministry, but integration within the wider family is a definite drawback. Something that we’re working on this year is trying to get students around older and wiser people.
If you’re part of a smaller church or a church without many students, there is a great opportunity to making the most of those congregation dynamics and help students get lots of investment from members of the congregation who have walked the way of Jesus far longer.
Finally, if you’re an older person (I’ll let you self-define!) reading this, then please be encouraged. Your role in student ministry is not just valid, but vital. Thank you for investing in students.
2) Engage the prophetic
“Prophecy re-calibrates your sense of who you truly are” – Dr Lucy Peppiatt
In some ways, this is a bit more difficult than getting mixing the generations – partly because you can only lead people as far as you yourself have been. Prophecy, put simply, is getting a sense of how God sees the world, other people, and various situations. This can sometimes result in God helpfully revealing something that is going to happen, or something that is already going on which is currently hidden ( for more info, read 1 Corinthians 12).
If you are already comfortable, to a lesser or greater extent, with prophecy in your own life, the invite and include students in this. One thing I will often do when I meet a student for coffee is to pray for them, and internally ask ‘God, what are you saying here?’. Sometimes I’ll feel lead to share it.
Another thing that we do at The Belfrey is to teach students how to prophesy for the first time. (Side note, we’re releasing a free resource on this for small groups later this academic year. If you’d like a copy, sign up here and we’ll notify you when it’s out.) As students prophesy over each other, they start to get a sense of what God is saying – both for themselves and through others who are also prophesying.
3) Study the Bible (together)
In my experience there are two types of Christian:
1) those who struggle (or have at some point struggled) to read their Bible.
2) those who tell lies.
Before I get angry emails (which you can totally do here), I would love to hear of people who have found it easy and enjoyable to read, memorise, meditate upon scripture from the very start of their Christian walk. I know, however, that I’m not one of them. And nor are many (if any) of my students.
Lucy’s suggestion? Read, study, memorise, reflect on, and meditate upon the Bible in groups. One easy way to do this is simply to model it – get a group of students around your house (we often do this over summer, at quiet times in the year, or with the small group leaders) and work through a book of the Bible with them. If you do this with small group leaders they, in turn, will naturally share it with their small groups.
A great resource for this, that Lucy mentions, is the Bible for Life website – full of great bible study resources.
You read the Bible in your own life, therefore invite students into that space and help them to do the same with their friends. Also: check out Bible Project for loads of great super short introduction videos to each book.
For more discussion on this, listen to the episode with Dr Lucy Peppiatt.
Resources from this Episode
The Disciple: On Becoming Truly Human by Dr Lucy Peppiatt. If you liked this interview with Lucy, you’ll love this book.
Bible for Life – Great resources for Bible study
http://theologicalmisc.net/ – The WTC Blog
Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard – A book quoted by Lucy
Living the Christian Story – Short course from WTC