August 6, 2019

Chris' Blog: Why Students Matter

I'll never forget an eye-opening moment for me in my third year of being in full-time student ministry. Besides candles, I am a sauce connoisseur. I was looking at different sauces when a man sparked a conversation with me. After a few back and forth topics, as always, the subject of our professions made way into the conversation. "So, what is it that you do?", he said, "I am the Student Pastor at a church here in town", I responded. Without hesitation, he asked me if I aspire to become a "real" pastor one day. 

I'm sure many Student Pastors can agree that this question sends frustration through their bones. I understand that this gentleman had no ill will in this matter to me. He was curious and genuine in his approach. With grace, I told him that I am in student ministry because I do love students. It's that simple. I love seeing parents being able to lead well inside their homes. I love seeing leaders empowered to walk in the trenches with students and their families. I love the patient process of seeing students come to know God fully and embrace the calling He has on their lives. I love everything about student ministry.

To be more concrete, I love being the Student Pastor at the Ridge. My wife, Kayla, and I are privileged to be here working with our 6th-12th-grade students. In my second year of leadership at the Ridge, I am eager to see all that God has in store for our student ministry. We believe that all students matter and belong. If you are reading this, and you have a student in 6th-12th grade, my prayer is that your student will join the movement of students who are hungry to find out who God created them to be. Allow me to share my top four reasons why I believe your student(s) should be or continue to be, a part of our ministry. 

Truth #1 is that we exist to reach students with the hope of Jesus. Our desire is for every student in Columbus to hear about the unconditional love that Jesus offers. Teenagers are asking big questions like, “Who am I? Where do I belong? How does God fit in this crazy world? Why am I here?”, etc. We want to create a ministry that is safe for students to ask the tough questions and discover who they are. 

Truth #2 is that we exist to encourage students to grow in their faith. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could wave a magic wand and then "POOF!", a mature follower of Christ? However, faith is a patient journey. We can't guarantee that your students will grow in their faith, but we will provide every opportunity that we can for that to happen. We offer safe settings like weekly teaching, small groups, and Bible studies that encourage students to grow in their relationship with Jesus. 

Truth #3 is that we exist to challenge students to live on purpose through faith. Although we are a safe place for teens, we are also a place that will challenge your student. Again, students are asking, "Who am I?". We believe that your student(s) are created with a purpose, and we will help them find that. We want to help them discover the gifts and talents to live a life of worship and surrender to Jesus. We will offer practical opportunities for students to serve and live this out. 

Truth #4 is that every student belongs here. We all need to know that we belong. We all have a desire to find the community of people that love, encourage, and challenge us to be a better person. We want that for your student. Students (and adults, I might add) are always on a journey to "fit in," which means that they change who they are depending on who they are around. That is exhausting. We want our students to be who they were created to be and to live motivated by identity and love. 
In conclusion, I want to say thank you. Thank you for trusting our team to lead your students in the most formative time of their life. Thank you for striving to be the best version of you as a parent. Thank you for the privilege that it is to walk with your family through this phase. We know that this is, and will be, a difficult time as a parent. We are excited to partner with you in leading the teenagers we love so dearly. We are better together. 

Whatever it takes, 

Chris Bell 

Chris Bell I was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, and lived there until I was in 4th grade. Around that time, my mom got a call that my grandpa had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Shortly after, we moved to Tennessee so we could be closer to him. I was angry and upset about the move. At the time, I didn’t know Jesus, so I didn’t know what to do with my anger. My mom suggested I go to a summer camp in the Smoky Mountains. During that week of camp was the first time I heard the gospel message; by the end of the week, I surrendered my life to Jesus. I went back to school and went through the motions, but didn’t have a church to help support me in my newly found faith. This was a common occurrence during my middle school years…my faith seemed to only be on fire during summer camp. Around my 6th grade year, my grandpa passed away. By that time, I had built a solid relationship with him, so I was angry that the Lord would move us to only have us watch him die. I was mad at Jesus, but I looked forward to going back to camp. By 8th grade, I went into severe suicidal depression. Christmas Eve of my 8th-grade year was one of the darkest moments of my life. I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen thinking about taking my life, and I heard Jesus tell me to hold on…that He had something for me. After three months of Jesus pulling me from that dark pit of despair, I went back to camp. This time, I heard God clearly telling me to go into full-time ministry. Over the next 4-5 years, I went from a camper to a camp counselor/director. My senior year of high school, I decided to go into student ministry because I wanted to be the student pastor that I never had. I wanted to be there for students during those difficult moments, like I went through. I wanted them to have someone to turn to when they were looking for answers to the hard questions. I attended Johnson University in Knoxville, TN, where I met my wife, Kayla. In between dating her, playing basketball, and working at Cracker Barrel with the sweet ladies in the store, I was able to get a Bachelor of Science degree in Youth Ministry/Preaching with a minor in Bible.  What I Do As the Student Pastor, most of my time is spent developing leaders who are passionate about coming alongside our students and encouraging them in their faith. I also spend a lot of my time prepping messages and thinking of creative ways to effectively equip parents to disciple well in their homes. If I’m not in the office, I’m probably out spending time with students and their friends. I believe it’s important to meet them where they are, and that is sometimes on the sidelines of a basketball game. Life Before The Ridge Before coming to The Ridge, I served as Pastor to Students for two years in Cincinnati. We then felt called to move to South Florida where I served as Student Pastor at Treasure Coast Community Church. Once we had our baby girl, Madison, we knew that it was time to come home to the great state of corn, soybeans, and many barns. Words I Live By 2 Timothy 1:7Every day I am on a journey to understand that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is the same power that empowers me to live out my purpose and to live a life of legacy. When I’m Not at Work, I… In the summer, you can find me sitting on the side of a creek or river pondering my next candle purchase. In the fall, you can find me in a recliner watching football. During any other season, an ideal day would be spending time with Kayla and Madison at a state park. Something That May Surprise You In 4th grade, I got in trouble with the law because I went into people’s mailboxes and took the magazines out of them because I liked looking at the pictures.