Circling the Wagons is a phrase that is based on the custom of bringing wagons into a circle when they are being attacked. This strategy assumes that by creating a circle all the flanks will be protected and therefore survival is much more likely. Put another way, the enemy can’t sneak up behind you, so you’re safer.
Often this strategy of “circling the wagons” is adopted by student ministries. We view students as being under attack (with just cause) and so we seek to protect them. We build safe student ministries, for the “good” kids, and we keep out anyone or anything that will threaten this safety. What I would suggest though is that circling the wagons, does not make our students safe, in fact it turns them into sitting ducks.
In our student ministry we have adopted an offensive mentality. Instead of circling wagons we have chosen to charge the hill. This does come with risks and casualties, which I will discuss in a moment, but ultimately we want our students to be a part of a ministry that is moving forward and advancing the Kingdom. We want to ingrain in them that following Jesus is an adventure that involves them being used by the Holy Spirit to change the lives of the people they come in contact with. This can’t possibly happen when students are in a defensive position, seeking to protect themselves.
This is one of the reasons we do GoCo’s ( our version of MC’s). GoCo’s are built around mission and it’s the mission that encourages students to “charge the hill”. When students go after a common mission it puts them on the offensive spiritually and also allows our leaders to challenge and encourage them to be more like Jesus. It’s the mission that creates a sense of urgency for students to grow as disciples.
As I said earlier, at times there are casualties. “Charging the hill” is difficult. The enemy isn’t going to lay down and surrender. However, I believe there is greater risk to students who are in a defensive posture spiritually. This risk is the picture of a disciple we are showing them. By the way we have structured our student ministries we have created a false picture. Being a follower of Jesus involves going and making disciples, and it’s very hard, if not impossible to “Go” when we are bunkered down in a foxhole. It’s definitely not the message we want to send to students – that following Jesus means we play it safe, protect ourselves and do not “go”. Adopting a protection “Circle the Wagons” mentality simply does not work in making disciples of Jesus.
One final thought. Rallying students around a mission and charging the hill is not an excuse to act like an idiot. Going for it will involve some risks, but that does not mean we should act foolishly. Choosing to GO forces us to rely on Jesus, His wisdom and on the leading of the Holy Spirit. So as we charge the hill we are also on our face seeking wisdom and guidance.