It’s been a little while since I’ve written in this “series” (or whatever you’d like to call them) of blog posts. In fact, it’s been close to a year since I’ve written anything about student ministry in general.
Over the past several months, I’ve faced some tough challenges in student ministry. Some challenges, I would rather not say. Some others, I wouldn’t mind sharing. One of those challenges has been the numbers game. I know, I know – I shouldn’t be worried about numbers, but sometimes my human nature gets obsessed with attendance. I want students to come to my church. It’s not the correct attitude to have, but this is where I’ve been.
I’ve also experienced some personal battles. I’ve never been a person who worries. I’ve always had a trust in God that He would provide for me and would carry me through difficulties in life. I don’t say this arrogantly, but with honesty. Worrying is not much of a temptation for me. But the last several months, I’ve found myself worrying quite often. Whether it be about my family, my personal life, my ministry, or other things, I’ve found myself obsessing about insignificant matters in life that, frankly, I have no control over.
With that being said, I have been learning a lot about student ministry. The last few months have been extremely hard for me, yet there have been ample learning opportunities in my life. Most of these learning opportunities have been in my role as a student minister. Here are three significant things I’ve learned about student ministry over the last few months:
1) You Can’t Do It By Yourself
Technically, I am a bi-vocational youth pastor. When my wife and I moved to our current church, we knew I would have to work a small part-time job to supplement the income decrease in our move. We knew that was coming and I knew something would have to give as far as duties at the church were concerned. Our church has been very gracious with this transition. But what I did not know was how much I was actually trying to do by myself before I became bi-vocational. I’ve just started year 5 in ministry (January, 2017) and this is the first bi-vocational role I’ve had. So doing it all by myself was all I had known until 2016. But this is something that needs to be conveyed to every student minister – whether volunteer or paid, full-time student ministers. You need people in your corner/balcony/cheering section who will volunteer to support you and help you in your ministry. When you try to do ministry on your own, several things happen: 1) you will end up overloading yourself with work, 2) overloading can compromise on family time (which should be every minister’s first ministry), 3) overloading communicates that others may not be as good as you for the task at hand, 4) you aren’t that good, and 5) you will never gain the trust of your people if you never let them help.
Take the time to invest in training volunteers or as Paul would say it, to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
2) Numbers Don’t Communicate Effectiveness
As I mentioned earlier, I have been overly obsessed about numbers lately. As anyone in ministry knows, when a new student minister, or pastor for that matter, arrives at a church for the first time, it takes years for the parishioners/students to trust their leadership. This has weighed on my mind lately. Yet, as this has weighed on my mind, the Lord has been letting me know that I should be investing in the students who attend currently rather than worrying about numbers. I recently read a quote that said something I will never forget –
“Our goal is not to make church members or members of our institution, but genuine disciples of Jesus.”
The effectiveness of your ministry is not measured by numbers, friend. The effectiveness of your ministry should be measured by your willingness to invest in your student’s spiritual lives and leading them to become disciples who make disciples.
3) Discipleship is the Name of the Game
Because of the message in point #2, it’s only necessary for this to follow. But this was not a transition to a main point or a 3rd point in my “discipleship sermon” that happened to end up on my blog – this is what I’ve learned in the past few months. Discipleship is what will last in church methodologies. I have never favored a pragmatic approach in my philosophy of student ministry. I believe a pragmatic student ministry is unbiblical. But saying this does not mean I never do anything fun with our students – it simply means the “fun activities” are an added bonus, if you will. I do take our students hiking, we play laser tag, we bowl, and we do other fun things; but we do not do these things at discipleship’s expense. The activities have a necessary purpose, but they will never contribute to the spiritual growth of a student. Activities do not produce spiritual growth, but they can produce community which can then lead to spiritual growth if the opportunity is taken advantage of correctly.
The only way our students will know Jesus is if we as student ministers, alongside your senior pastor and parents, lead them to Him. The way you execute this goal is through discipleship.
Worrying gets you nowhere. I’ve found that out the hard way these past few months. However, I have peace knowing that God is using me, as a student minister, to advance His Kingdom. Student minister, God is using you to be an agent to make disciples of your students. Take advantage of every opportunity you are allowed.
The Trellis and the Vine – Colin Marshall & Tony Payne
Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ – Richard Ross
Multiply – Francis Chan
Growing Up – Robby Gallaty