Why bring students on a 9:38 conference?
Joe was one of the Student Workers at Moorlands Church, Lancaster when he contributed this blog post; he is currently studying at Oak Hill College. He attended a 9:38 conference as an undergraduate student, which was a helpful step in thinking through full-time gospel ministry. We asked him some questions about why he's so keen to encourage students to consider full-time ministry and how a 9:38 student conference can help with that.
Why are you so keen for students at Moorlands to consider full-time gospel ministry?
...we want to help them see that all Christian .believers are called by God to be gospel ministers.
When we talk to our students about gospel ministry we want to help them see that all Christian believers are called by God to be gospel ministers. Every believer has the privilege of ministering the word of God to others as we urge non-believers to trust Christ, and as we help other believers grow in maturity. From that foundation the question we then try and ask students is not, “Have you thought about gospel ministry?” but “Have you considered whether full-time paid gospel ministry might be for you?”
We’re keen for students to consider this question because it’s crucial for the health of the church and the spread of the gospel that ‘set-apart’ gospel workers are identified, called out, and thoroughly trained for gospel work. Students are at a great stage of life to consider this question because they tend to have less commitments and more flexibility to choose how they will spend the rest of their lives. In three years at university they will go to countless career fairs and pick up flyers for hundreds of jobs, but no one there will be encouraging them to think about the idea of giving up their career for the sake of Jesus Christ! As a church we need to help them think through this question prayerfully and deliberately.
How do you think this sort of conference helps them, but also you, as a student worker?
They ... hear a direct challenge to consider whether paid gospel-ministry might be right for them.
Over the years we’ve found 9:38 student conferences very helpful in giving our students set-aside time to think about the direction of their lives in the light of the gospel. The teaching challenges them to keep taking up their cross and following Jesus, no matter how they will earn a living in the future. They also hear a direct challenge to consider whether paid gospel-ministry might be right for them. It also gives students time to ask questions, to meet others in a variety of ministry situations, and to discuss what they’re learning with any church leaders who bring them along.
As a Student Worker I want to help students think about gospel ministry all year round, but this annual conference is a great help because it kick-starts conversations and causes students to think intentionally about what to do after graduation. After the conference I have a better idea of where students are at in their thinking, and how best to help them plan wisely for the future.
How do you follow up with students after the conference? What sort of things do you encourage them to think about and do in response to what they've heard?
We’ve found that after the conference our students will often take time to think about their own godliness and suitability for ministry. The conference prompts them to consider their gifts, personalities and character, and we want to help them think this through honestly. I often ask students after the conference, “Are the any reasons you can think of why you shouldn’t pursue full-time gospel ministry?”
If they are keen to test their suitability for set-apart ministry, then we try and give them options of how to test the water.
If they are keen to test their suitability for set-apart ministry, then we try and give them options of how to test the water. This might be a ministry trainee role at church, or encouraging them to attend a training course to help develop their gifts. This year we have also organised a lunch on the day after the conference so that we can get all the students together who attended. At the lunch we’ll take time to reflect and pray about the teaching from the day. We’ll also encourage students to think about whether they could commit to partnering with us long-term in Lancaster, perhaps by staying with us to further the work in our city and beyond.
We are praying each year for faithful gospel workers for the harvest field (Matthew 9:38), and this conference is a helpful way of calling students to this great work.
If you're a student worker or involved with student work at your church, we'd love you to consider bringing students to a 9:38 conference near you. You can find out the dates of this year's conferences here.