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Valuing Life Ceremonies

Valuing Life Ceremonies

Maybe your attendance for them is more significant than theirs.

I can remember a mentor once saying to me, “Don’t ever forget the life ceremonies of the people you serve”.  A few hours ago I was reminded of the importance of this simple principle shared with me so many years ago.  Earlier today I had the privilege of marrying two of my students from LBC, Jason and Julie White.  Over the past couple of years I have spent a good bit of time investing in both Jason and Julie, but none as sweet as my time earlier today.  Just prior to the service I took time to pray with Jason and share my heart.  His response was clear.  My presence at his wedding meant more to him than any meeting, class, or mentoring time we had had over the past four years.  I am deeply thankful for his words and the new season he and Julie have just begun.

 Just be Present

Programs happen every day, but these significant life ceremonies only happen once in life!  Over the years I have observed leaders in various ministry settings pouring all their time and energy into programming and sometimes doing so at the expense of being absent when their presence truly mattered.

Now here me clearly, I am not knocking on programming.  In fact, I am one who believes we need to program and administrate our student ministries extremely well to be healthy.  However, sometimes we raise our preplanned environments above the very life ceremonies that exist in all of our students lives that we serve.  When we do this, we miss a deep opportunity to be present in what’s really important to them.  When we participate in what’s important to someone else, we communicate value and worth to that person on a deep level.  The following are a few key life ceremonies which are essential for us not to miss in the lives of our students.

 A few key Life Ceremonies
  • Graduation
  • Celebration of accomplishments
  • Births
  • Anniversaries
  • The death of a loved one
  • Weddings

 Three keys to not missing Life Ceremonies

1. Be willing to change your programming

If your programming night falls on the same evening of a major life ceremony of one of your students, don’t assume that you need to carry on with the show.  If at all possible, entertain the idea of participating in the life ceremony.  Imagine the impact on a student if their entire student ministry showed up at their high school graduation.

 2. Be willing to have someone fill in for you

Recognize that the ministry and program will go on without you.  In fact, hearing other voices is often good for our students.  Simply having someone cover, so you can make a key life ceremony in a student’s life is a sign of health.  Also, by you choosing to be there for the student rather than at the planned ministry night communicates deep worth  and value.

 3. Be willing to go beyond your comfort zone

There was a young man named Greg in our student ministry years ago.  He lived with his grandparents due to a difficult family situation.  I remember the day his grandfather died.  He was all Greg had.  I told Greg, I would spend the whole funeral day with him, whatever he needed.  The day started early with breakfast at his house, it ended with me sitting beside  Greg and his Grandfather’s grave for three hours in the pouring rain after everyone else had left.  Being present for a life ceremony sometimes goes beyond attending an event.

20 years from now, when your students are adults and have their own families.  More than likely they are not going to remember your mid week student ministry programming or even any message you ever shared, but they will remember your presence on a very special day when simply being there spoke more than words.

Remember, life ceremonies only come once in life!

What life ceremonies of your students do you need to be present at within the next few months?

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.