Three Basics for Student Ministry That WILL Never Change

In some ways, every Christian is involved in student ministry. We must continue to proclaim the message of Jesus and share it with the next generation.

But this post is for those who are serving directly with students in local churches and other Christian student ministries.

Here are three things that will never change in student ministry:

  • Befriending
  • Belonging
  • Believing

Let’s talk about each of these:

Befriending

Too often, adults think kids don’t want to want to be their friends. But the truth is, healthy friendships with other adults in the church create a web of relationships that keep students connected. You still need to be the adult, but being a friend with a student can keep them connected, growing, and strong.

As a parent, have you ever heard of another adult, who may be a coach, teacher of leader in your student’s lives, coming up to say how pleasant, kind, mannerly and delightful your child is? Then the parent and child get into the car together and it’s back to the eye-rolling, brief answers, and silence? There’s a lot we could talk about here, but students need their parents, and at the same time, need other adults who aren’t in the parent role to interact, respect them and think of them as friends.

I’ve been saying a long time now that students will naturally gravitate toward the oldest person who will take them seriously. There is a draw for students to want an adult to notice them and know them.

In some ways, social media has hijacked the word “friend.” I’m not against social media, but some kids don’t even understand true friendship these days.

Student ministry in the local church is a great place to model friendships. We shouldn’t have to say it, but of course, healthy boundaries need to be in place (for example when I text students inviting them to something, I always include a parent on the text loop as well, etc).

Here are 15 questions youth workers can ask students.

Belonging

The church needs to bend over backward to help students experience belonging!

Too often the mindset of churches is that you need to believe before you belong, but it’s actually just the opposite. A student will need to feel like they belong, then they start experiencing the belief. They start experiencing God at work through their community and connection with others. God uses people to help us experience his grace and love.

One great thing adult leaders can do is to know the students. Smile when they arrive and remember their names.

Dolly Madison, the wonderful white house hostess, was asked how she made each person feel so important even at large gatherings. Her response was that she used two phrases.  When someone arrived she said, “Ah, you’ve finally arrived!” And as someone had to leave she’d say, “leaving so soon?”

Belonging is biblical – Jesus calls us his own. He loved us before we even knew it. Model this for your students in the community and the church.

On a side note, I think some of the fads of the identity crisis in our current next-generation culture is the fact that students are looking so diligently for belonging. A lot more could be said about this, but one simple step is for the church to help students know they were created by God and belong to him. We must stop focusing on “identity” as the world sees it these days and put the focus back on our identity (our belonging) being in Christ and Christ alone.

Believing

Believing has a couple angles. One is that we believe in these kids. We need to believe that God has something in store for them. We need to believe they are becoming adults who will love and trust Jesus. Someone has to believe in them.

From another angle, believing is also the work of a Christian. It’s why we’re called “believers.” I like the verse in John 6:29 – “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

One thing that will never go out of style no matter how many snacks you prepare, how many outings you plan, how many trips you take, how many lock-ins you try not to do, is to invite students to BELIEVE IN JESUS. It’s the essence of ministry to students.

This is a cue for adults to ask faith questions to kids! Challenge them. Help them grow. Go big and bold and ask on a regular basis the questions that help students grow in faith. Don’t be afraid of tough questions, but keep Inviting students to follow Jesus and believe in him.

I’m so grateful for the many adults in my life who kept teaching me, encouraging me, and showing me what it looks like to love and believe in Jesus.

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