In building a ministry, the aim should be to build something that lasts…even beyond the tenure of the student minister. Rejoice when your ministry thrives apart from you. Establish a culture of leadership that places Jesus as its central figure and draws life from no individual. How do you do that? Here are eleven ideas to get you started.
Don’t rely too heavily on gimmicks to keep your ministry flowing. Doing so only reduces the likelihood of teenagers finding interest in prayer, the study of God’s Word, worship, and service. Instead, be intentional about using these things (like pizza) to open opportunities for the Gospel to be shared and Jesus be revealed in the lives of students.
2. Great Teacher=Great Student
A great teacher understands the relationship between their own learning and the quality of their teaching. A great student seeks learning through every situation they encounter. Don’t get so caught up in your own views that you fail to see beyond your own understanding of the world around you. No matter how much experience, education, and achievements are present within the life of a person, nobody is exempt from the need to learn.
3. Growth (minus the calculator)
How well do you recognize and appreciate growth that cannot be recorded in a spreadsheet? God often works in ways that do not keep to our ways of thinking. Besides, what’s the point of numerical growth if there is no spiritual growth taking place. Keep a watchful eye for the growth happening in individuals and not just the group as a whole.
4. You Need This
Ministry can many times seem futile and ineffective. Despite our great efforts and faithfulness, nothing shows. Don’t ignore what God is doing in your own life during this time, however. Perhaps, He is preparing you for what is to come, so allow Him to grow you in whatever way is needed.
5. The In Between
Bible study, events, meetings, and administration all play their roles within student ministry, but hopefully they are not the extent of it. As much as people love their calendars and to-do lists, God doesn’t pay much attention to them. There are so many opportunities for ministry that take place “in between” programming that we would be foolish to give them little or no attention. Always be alert for moments such as these.
6. Invest Deeply
Youth workers should show consistency, availability, and selflessness when discipling students. The work of discipleship is difficult, and has the potential to lead to disappointment, broken hearts, and feelings of inadequacy. After all, one of Jesus’ own disciples sold him out for a few weeks worth of pay and all of them abandoned him at one point. But the eternal value greatly outweighs any anguish experienced in the here and now.
7. Life Is a Classroom
What if youth workers lived as though teaching never stopped? What if every moment, every reaction and response, every word spoken served as a lesson for students? Regardless of intentionality, this remains true. Any amount of influence turns a person into a permanent teacher. What lessons are being taught?
8. So…Now what?
Do you ever feel as though students have zero response to the lessons they hear despite the amount of time that went into preparing them? Perhaps the issue is that student don’t know how to respond. Leave students with specific challenges that are realistic, but will require them to live out their faith. Then, later on, allow students to give feedback from the challenges and hear the testimonies that are formed.
9. Don’t Hold Back
Students who are not challenged become bored. Don’t let the fear of scaring students off become the reason for keeping everything simple. Instead, take students on the difficult journey of interpreting and understanding scripture. It is so rewarding to see students so excited about something they learned in God’s Word that they can’t help but share it with others.
10. Be a Ministry Contortionist
There may be no better feeling than when everything goes according to plan. Unfortunately, no matter how many hours are put into preparation, this is a rare case for student ministry. Whether it be last minute lesson changes from the Holy Spirit, or just a sick student, it happens. So what is our response? Anger? Frustration? Perhaps it should just be expected. Therefore, never build walls around your ministry that keep you from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
11. Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly
Why is it that we do what we do? In the midst of planning and programming, it can become easy to lose sight of our focus. Regardless, Jesus commandment to make disciples never becomes irrelevant. So anything we do that does not point back to a mission of connecting students to the life, teachings, and views of Jesus is a waste of time and is sinful. Nothing else matters.
Bryan has been the Student Minister at First Baptist Church in May, Texas for almost 7 years. He loves hiking with his wife, Vanessa, and enjoys playing the guitar and drums, camping and videography.