To every Youth Pastor and Adult Leader serving in Student Ministry…
For nearly 14 years I was in full-time ministry as a Youth Pastor. Being a Youth Pastor was my passion and calling…still is actually. I can still remember when God placed in my heart a passion to minister to teens.
Anyway, that is not really the reason for this letter. I could go on forever sharing about my passion and what I love about Student Ministry, as well as my ideas and goals and dreams for students and Student Ministry, but I will refrain from that. The reason I am writing this letter is to remind you of what really matters the most in Student Ministry.
Students. Students matter the most. Not the programs, the big events, the games, the coolness factor of the Youth Center, or even how great the lessons and small group discussions are.
Don’t get me wrong, those are all part of Student Ministry, and they all need to be done well. There is nothing wrong with programs, events, games, lessons and small group discussions, or even creating a cool Youth Center where students can feel comfortable. But ultimately, the students are what truly matter.
You can have a successful Student Ministry without a cool Youth Center, crazy fun games, big events, or fancy and well-organized programs. Lesson and small groups I will say are a must at some level…but remember that even those are only successful if the students know that you care about them and really do want to help them grow, as well as are willing to listen to them.
The students are by far what matter most
Make sure you are willing to listen to students. Listen to them as they share their dreams, ideas, struggles, and fears. Listen to and talk with them about their doubts and questions about faith and this life.
Find ways to be involved in their lives in little and big ways. Show up at their games and activities to cheer them on and show them support. Grab a bite to eat with them so you can build a relationship with them. Let them know you are there for them if and when they need you to be.
Don’t just preach at them, but rather invest in their lives and disciple them. Show them what scripture teaches, but also help them apply what scripture teaches in their everyday life. Be transparent (appropriate transparency obviously) with them about what you’re learning in your life.
Make the Student Ministry about them. Let them know in tangible ways that they are what is most important in the ministry, that you truly care for them. Tell them you are proud of them. Show them you care about them. Treat them with respect. Pay attention to them.
Here is why I’m sharing this with you and reminding you of this…
Because I’m now on the other side, for the first time since High School. I’ve been working in Student Ministry since I was a freshman in college, and I’ve been full-time since graduating college 14 years ago (18 years total of ministry). But life has brought changes, and I am currently not the guy planning the events and seeking to invest in students lives. I am now the parent praying and desiring that you will care for and invest in my own children’s lives.
As a parent I know and take seriously my role as father; I am not looking to pawn off my responsibility to raise my kids or disciple them to follow Christ in their own life. I know that is my God-given responsibility, and I take it seriously. But I also know that my children need more than just me to invest in their life.
I know that being their father as God intended is crucial in their development…but having other solid Christian adults in their life who care about them is crucial as well.
So I want to remind you and encourage you to make sure that the students are what matter most in your Student Ministry. Keep your eyes open, so you can see what is going on in their life and thus can care for them accordingly. Train yourself and your leaders how to properly and effectively connect with and invest in students. Make that the priority…because students need you to.
As I said, I was in full-time ministry for nearly 14 years. I knew all of what I’m reminding you. I knew the importance of it, and did all I could to invest in students lives. And I’m not suggesting you don’t know or seek to do all that I’m reminding you of. But now that I’m on the other side, I see the importance of it in a whole new light. So I’m reminding you again.
A parent first, and former Youth Pastor second
P.S. – these principles can be true in all area’s of ministry. The application might change, but the principles remain. So feel free to share with those in Children’s Ministry, College Ministry, and all various forms of Adult Ministry.