Reggie Joiner made a statement in a leaders’ meeting at Bigstuf Camps that I’ve spent a lot of time processing this summer. He said, “The relationship you have with students is more important than your reputation as a leader.”
Initially, it seems like there are a lot of problems with that statement.
1. Your reputation will always stay with you… students won’t.
2. The reputation of the students you have relationships with shapes your reputation.
3. If student pastors gain a reputation of maintaining relationships with “bad” kids, that can damage the image of the church.
In student ministry world the best way to maintain a pure reputation with parents, the church, and the community is to form relationships with students who are making wise decisions. I mean you don’t want people knowing that YOU were the mentor in the life of the kid who just got arrested. Because of that, the tendency as student pastors/workers is to design ministry for the kids who are already making wise decisions… that way the students in your ministry aren’t the ones showing up on the front page for doing something stupid.
But if what Reggie Joiner said is true, then we should value our relationship with students (regardless of their current lifestyle) above our reputation as a leader.
Here’s why: Relationship is the route to life change, and God has not called Christians to a ministry of reputation, but to a ministry of reconciliation. And the only way that we can lead other students into a reuniting relationship with God, is if we first establish a relationship with them. If you’re going to lead lost students into a relationship with God, then you’ve got to have some relationships with lost students. And having relationships with lost students can damage your reputation.
So which will you choose? Relationship or reputation?
Who do you have a relationship with that is potentially damaging your reputation?