As the church works to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations, we must ensure that mobilizing students is a major part of that plan. Students are not only the mission force of the future, they are catalytic in global disciple-making today. But sending students overseas on mission trips is not the first step in developing global Christians among our churches. Mobilizing the next generation to global missions begins with discipleship in the church. We must disciple students to missions.
As students’ hearts for God’s Word grows, they will begin to understand God’s heart for all people to know him, which will lead to a heart for the world. Every student needs to gain a global perspective, whether he or she becomes a long-term international missionary, a professional in the global marketplace, or a healthy church member who sends and supports others.
Here are a few tips for discipling students toward global engagement:
Teach students to worship God with their whole lives.
As John Piper says in Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. . . . Missions begins and ends in worship.” Before students can gain a global perspective, they must develop an unwavering devotion to our global God. Teach students how to abide in Christ and depend on his word for everything.
Show students the thread of missions throughout Scripture.
Many missions sermons focus on New Testament verses such as Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19-20. However, it is important for students to understand the grand narrative of Scripture. God demonstrates his plan to redeem the world from Genesis through Revelation. Show students how God’s acts and revelation throughout the Old and New Testament were purposefully drawing all people to himself.
Train students to discern what is true, right, and good.
As students develop a biblical worldview, grow in their knowledge of God, and hide God’s Word in their hearts, they will be able to filter information and experiences through that knowledge of truth. This will help them identify false teachings, know right from wrong, and have a clear understanding of the things that are of God.
Students are not only the mission force of the future, they are catalytic in global disciple-making today.
Expose students to things different from their norms.
Students need to be pushed outside of their comfort zone to experience the incredibly diverse and creative world in which we live. They need to talk to people who have different lifestyles, explore different worldviews and cultures, and try new things.
Encourage students to pray for the nations.
Students need to recognize the spiritual and physical needs in this world. Then, their efforts to make a difference should begin on their knees. Praying for the nations will instill dependency on God to work around the world. As students pray for the nations, they will get a glimpse of the global church. Then they will be able to unite to support brothers and sisters around the world while also becoming more aware of the needs of their neighbors.
Fellowship with students as they learn to live in biblical and missional community.
Students must learn to care for one another, hold each other accountable, spur each other on, and take personal responsibility for their own actions, aware of how they influence others. Students need role models to show them how to have fun, resolve conflict, and give their time and resources for the sake of others.
Help students understand the purpose and value of the church.
Students need to know that God’s church should be honored and respected. Students should learn to serve in and through the church as they learn that God’s plan is to work through the church to bring the nations to himself.
Model for students how to share the gospel with everyone.
Don’t just teach simple evangelism tips and scripts. Instead, take students with you and share the gospel in front of them within the normal context of everyday life. Repeat the gospel to them often in a variety of formats so they know it well and can easily recite it in conversation.
Don’t just teach simple evangelism tips and scripts. Instead, take students with you and share the gospel in front of them within the normal context of everyday life.
Challenge students to do hard things.
Don’t let students settle for the path of least resistance. Instill grit and determination to persevere and solve problems as they come. Help them understand that sacrifice, obedience, and determination are all required to get the gospel to the least reached places on Earth.
Inspire students to use their gifts, skills, and talents for God’s glory.
Students are capable of much more than we often allow them to do. Be their toughest critic and their biggest fan so they only improve. Help them reach their goals, encourage them to do well in whatever they put their minds to, and show them ways God can use their skill sets or giftings to reach the nations.
Equip students to cross cultures.
Teach students about various worldviews, ask them to study the basics about major world religions, and train them to ask good questions about cultural practices and values. Teach them to communicate with a variety of people and engage them in ministry to internationals on their campuses and in their neighborhoods.
Send students to unreached peoples and places.
Students are in a season of life that gives them unprecedented opportunity to go and serve among the nations. Timing, flexibility, health, energy, enthusiasm, and creativity all create a window of opportunity to send students. Churches can create an exciting culture of sending within the church by using student missionaries to start and fuel mission partnerships. In addition, missionary teams need ready, willing, and able students to extend their reach and influence in order to plant churches among unreached peoples and places.
Stefani Varner serves on the Church Initiatives team at IMB. She previously served as a missionary in South Asia and is passionate about discipling students toward global engagement.
For information on what keeps students from engaging in mission, check out this article.