About 10 months ago a group of people sat on Chris’ back porch talking about starting a youth ministry for our church, Harbor Mid-City. As we chatted, dreamt, and prayed about this ministry one of the things that came out was… “We want it to be a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.”
That phrase stuck. It actually became a part of our ministry description which we recite during every meeting. “IOB is a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.”
That phrase got tested a bit last night.
Stephen, our teaching/senior pastor, came to youth group last night to teach on and invite students to participate in baptism. His teaching was pretty simple… this is what baptism is, this is what it symbolizes, this is who should get baptized, this is how our church does it, we’d love it if you would consider getting baptized. He did a great job.
I could tell during his teaching time that some students were uneasy about this whole thing. They didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t that Stephen was teaching anything bad or that they were intimidated in any way or even that he was manipulating them to make a decision they didn’t want to make– there was just something about the truths of Scripture that Stephen was saying that gave the room a funny, rare vibe.
You could see it in their posture. You could see it in the way they looked at him. You could see it in the way they listened to his talk.
To follow-up, we broke up into small groups and the leaders were asked to dig a little deeper with the students and ask if any of them would like to be baptized.
Three responses from my circle that tested me in my response.
- Is there any way I can get unbaptized? My parents baptized me as a baby and I don’t want to follow God.
- I’m not ready to get baptized. I understand the Gospel and I get what Stephen was talking about, but I’m just not ready to put my faith in Jesus yet.
- Why did my parents baptize me? If they made a covenant to God than they didn’t live up to it at all.
Mince no words. These were questions that pushed me back to that discussion 10 months before. Was IOB really a safe place to explore Jesus? If so, how I responded either validated that statement or invalidated it.
Open questions for readers:
What would be answers to these responses which would communicate that IOB isn’t a safe place?
What would be some “this is a safe place” answers to these questions?