There are always seasons for ministry and they seem to change faster in student ministry!
Here are four general student ministry trends that you may sense need to change in your own church:
Less About Content, More About Relationships
Good content will always be important, but as students grow up they probably will remember less of what you said, and more how you made them feel. Were you interested in them? Did you take them seriously? Was there an adult who really cared if they were there? We don’t want to downplay solid biblical content – a good chunk of scripture, prayer and conversation each week is perfect. But if you are spending all your time getting the lesson together and aren’t building relationships and investing in adults who are doing the same, you’re going to plateau in effective ministry.
Less About Youth Group, More About Church
Teenagers like to be around teenagers, but they also benefit from intergenerational connections in the local church. One of the most important things the student ministry can do is to help connect students to other areas of the church ministry. If they have significant roles on teams with other adult leaders, you’re strengthing ministries, relational ties and the body of Christ at the time. Keep discovering ways for students to serve in general church ministry – prayer, music, tech, leading, serving, hospitality, media, and more. Let them get a taste of being a part of the church now.
Less About Activity, More About Mission
When I was younger, there seemed to be a mindset that students “needed something to do.” For the most part, depending on your context, this sentiment has faded. There are plenty of activities for students to choose from and in most cases, they are overwhelmed by their own schedule. What effective student ministries are learning is to help students experience the “why” behind their ministry. When teens get on fire about faith, powerful things happen. When students are inspired to live each day in mission, inviting others to experience the love of Christ, the power of God explodes! When they extend love and hospitality and hope to others around them, homes are changes, schools are shaped and the very lives of students are changed. This revival from a focus on the mission doesn’t have to be reserved for a one week trip in the summer – it can be for now, in your student ministry, on a consistent basis. The size of your ministry doesn’t matter in this case. There will always be a snack and a game here and there. There will also be a reason for a fun outing to build relationships. But student ministry is shifting to more meaning, purpose and mission. Students are longing for it.
Less About Programs, More About Discipleship
Programs have one purpose: to facilitate relationships and growth. But when a program becomes the goal, you become bogged down. Discipleship, on the other hand, is walking with someone. They used to say faith in Jesus is more caught than taught. Through small groups, students have an opportunity to know leaders, ask questions and wrestle. True discipleship is almost never a program – it’s too messy, too uncertain, too simple. Kids will have doubts, and you talk through it. Students will be flakey, and you love them anyway. Teens may seem disengaged, but you keep asking the difficult, spiritual soul searching questions. Don’t shy away from calling students to follow Jesus. It’s the core of what we are doing as we help birth young adults into Christian adulthood.
These four shifts in ministry require more intentional work. It will take building a team to help. It will need great communication with your pastor and leadership to succeed. And it takes supernatural, holy spirit energy. Pray hard and enjoy this next season of ministry with students.