Here’s the deal, our world has never moved faster. Our lives (and those of students) are full of 24 hour news coverage, constant social media updates, and neck breaking technological advances. Innovation and change seem to be the air we breathe. That said, how in the world is a student ministry supposed to keep up?!
Good news – you don’t have to! Here are 5 timeless truths that I believe every student ministry can and should offer if they are going to be successful:
#1 - Support and Vision from the Senior Pastor
If you are going to have a thriving student ministry you’re going to do so because you’re leading volunteers and students with the same heart and words that are emphasized in every major platform of your church. I cannot accentuate this point enough. The best-case scenario for a ministry that ignores this point is a ‘flash in the pan’ momentary success that ends up splitting a church up because there were 2 visions…aka Di-Vision. Student ministers that embrace their leadership’s heart for people will avoid frustrations and pave the way for a healthy church long after their season of leadership is over.
#2 - Teaching the Bible
Every human being on planet earth needs the Gospel. Humanity is universally broken and therefore everyone needs the good news of Jesus Christ. No matter the demographic, the Gospel is the universal language of life and hope and healing. Preach it. Say ‘no’ to other things/activities in order to say ‘yes’ to teaching the Bible. Otherwise we are not being the church, but rather some kind of new version of the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club or daycare. Every student in our ministry needs the life altering words of the Bible.
#3 - Evaluation and Follow Up
Once your vision is clarified and the wins are known, then evaluation and follow up is a next step. This is where momentum really starts to get built. Challenge. Change. Progress. Find a way to weekly celebrate the people that are doing a great job in your ministry area. Don’t just talk about how they are doing a great job, but talk to them about how they are doing a great job. What you celebrate is what others will replicate, so work on the art of celebration. Likewise, you must point out the opportunities for improvement and you must talk to the individuals that are responsible for improving (this is a true test of love). Commit to this discipline weekly with your team leaders. It will change your culture.
#4 - Relationships with Students
Relationships are the glue of every ministry. They are what take a ministry from a one night of the week gathering to an everyday of the week lifestyle. Truths may be preached from the platform but they will be learned and applied inside of the context of relationships. We must value them. Cultivate and celebrate leaders who make this a priority. Remember what you celebrate is what they will replicate, so make a big deal about relationships in your ministry. Leader, you must model this, not simply say it.
#5 - Grit…Willingness to work hard!
WARNING: Here’s my soapbox. Historically, I think lots of student ministries don’t win because of good ol’ fashion laziness. If you’re the youth guy who plays video games all night, sleeps in every morning and are constantly the last one to staff meetings… WAKE UP! Heaven is real and so is Hell. Jesus taught the parable of talents and I think it’s a great parable for youth workers. God might bless you with something more if you invest what’s in your hand now and stop burying it in the back yard. Don’t whine because someone else has more. Realize that there is no one with a greater voice and opportunity to change the future of the church than you and the folks you are pouring your life into.
(This post was written by Brad Cooper, our family pastor AND one of THE BEST leaders on the planet! He and his team will be sharing in several student ministry breakouts at our Double Conference this August…and they will be SLAMMED FULL. I cannot wait!)