Part 1 of this series ended with me saying that if I, as a student minister, do not awaken to the supremacy of Christ, neither will the students of our church. If you haven’t read the entire post, you can find it here. In continuing this “series” or whatever you want to call it, I am going to really become vulnerable through this post.
My initial thoughts on student ministry were drastically different than what they are currently. Four years ago, I would have said that student ministry exists to bring teens closer to God. Duh! But I would have also said it exists to do so through whatever means you can use or think of using. I would have said that student ministry can exists to use a bowling trip to reach students for Christ. It sounds like something to be laughed about, but as I discovered other student ministries across our denomination through networking and relationships, I realized I was not alone with this mindset. For the entirety of my ministry (3 years) until January of this year, I have used this philosophy of ministry to “run” my student ministry. There was no substance with the activities I executed. There was no depth to the trips I planned. The only “activity” with any sort of substance whatsoever was my Wednesday night student worship service. The funny realization I have had lately is I thought I had it all together. I thought I “knew what I was doing.” I just knew in the back of my mind this is what the Lord was leading me to do in the student ministry He had entrusted me to lead.
But it was not.
In ministry, the Lord never leads you to do something without Him as the forefront. In the most sincere, genuine way I can be, there has never been a more true statement for me in my ministry. God will never direct you, as a student minister, in such a way that will not have Him preeminent in your endeavors of student ministry. Once again, this does not mean that you cannot have fun things to do every once in a while. However, they must be with purpose. What I missed in my first three years of ministry was discipleship. I knew it was a vital part of ministry, but never took it as a personal responsibility as a Christ-follower or student minister. It is comical to hear senior pastors talk about how the church needs to be healthy spiritually before it can grow numerically (I agree). But why don’t we ever hear student ministers use this same language with their youth groups? We seem to agree when pastors talk about it in terms of the congregation, but we never consider that our teenagers could serve as an agent of God to revitalize the congregation. Wow!
On discipleship, Richard Ross has a 50+ page chapter in his book Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ. 50+ pages! Several things come into play with his discipleship plan. Let me just chime in with this thought before I go further: You do not have to do this exactly as Ross has it outlined. Your personality at your church is going to affect the way you implement these suggestions. However, what Ross says is necessary to have a spiritually healthy student ministry.
Several things encompass his discipleship method:
- Prayer Mentors
- Relationship with Student Minister
- Relationship with Spiritually Alive Parents
- 1 on 3 Discipleship (“Life Coaching”)
- Open Group Bible Study (Sunday School/Small Groups)
The biggest point he makes are two of the five listed: Prayer Mentors and 1 on 3 Discipleship.
“Prayer mentors pray daily over a teenager, and they provide encouragement and warmth to that student. They reflect the heart of an older Paul toward Timothy, ‘I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you…so that I may be filled with joy.'”
(2 Tim. 1:3-4)
Today’s adults in your congregation may not feel as if they are connected to the younger generations of your church, but they can be just as effective as your volunteers by becoming a prayer mentor to a student. Prayer mentors commit to praying for one student until they get married or graduate from college. As the student minister, it is your job to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12).” This includes equipping members of the congregation for committed prayer on behalf of teenagers. Ross says,
“Bottom line: God blesses prayer and the nurturing connection formed between two generations.”
1 on 3 Discipleship
This discipleship model is one adult and three students in a discipling relationship for at least one school year. It mirrors the relationship between Jesus and Peter, James, and John. This is not just discipleship, but it is also life sharing with an adult in the church. If you think about it, Jesus took these three men just about everywhere He went. Most of the time when you see Jesus in Scripture, you also see Peter, James, and John. The most important goal for you as a student minister is to equip (Eph. 4:12) your disciplers for the work of the 1 on 3 discipleship. Disciplers who are being transformed will result in disciples being transformed. It is that simple. But it is just as simple to expect students to not be transformed if your disciplers are not being transformed.
Deuteronomy 6 calls parents to disciple their children starting at home. However, if you were to talk to most of the parents (if not all of them) in your church, you would most likely hear that none of them were discipled as children in their home. Inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest. To overcome the inertia of parents expecting the church to disciple their children, you must have a specific strategy to do so. Ross says,
“It may take parents discipling at church to overcome initial inertia of family discipleship.”
One of the most important things you can communicate to your disciplers as they invest in three students is that they are changing the world for Christ. They are making a difference in teenager’s lives through discipleship. What they do matters!
As I stated earlier, I have not been intentional about discipleship in my student ministry and am not proud to admit it. But I am now, and will continue to be until I retire. I whole-heartedly believe when pastors and student ministers who embrace the supremacy of Christ make discipleship a priority in their ministry, God will bless. And this is not to say that God only blesses discipleship. But discipleship is God’s plan for the church, period. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..” Jesus’ last command to the disciples was not to go and gather the masses for awesome bowling night, great trips out of town, or a “fear factor” themed lock-in. Jesus’ last command was to make disciples. Jesus’ last command was for His disciples and apostles to build lasting relationships with their congregations so they would in return have a lasting relationship with the risen Lord.
- Should it not be our passion and desire to do the same?
- Should it not be our goal in ministry to equip those in our churches to come alongside us as student ministers to carry out the ministry to students?
- Should it be entertaining activities that reach our students or the gospel?
Our goal in student ministry should be for our students to awaken to the supremacy and preeminence of Christ in their lives, whatever it takes. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s in student ministry.
Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” If we really love Christ we will keep His commandments. And His last commandment was for all of those who have trusted Him through faith to go and make disciples of all nations.
Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ – Richard Ross
Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture – Brian Cosby
Sustainable Youth Ministry – Mark Devries
Purpose Driven Youth Ministry – Doug Fields