What Really Keeps Students Involved

I have often asked student ministry leaders to think of someone who had an impact on their lives while they were in high school. If they have two or three names, I ask them to narrow it down to just one person who had the most impact.

Next, I ask the leaders to raise their hand if that person was an adult. Typically, 100% of the hands go up.

Adults have a significant influence on the lives of students. Sometimes, student ministry workers believe it’s the peer relationships that carry it. Though that’s part of it, of course, the meaningful and wholesome connection to adults is a huge connector for students in the church.


I once heard that students will gravitate toward the oldest person who will take them seriously. That’s powerful.

When adults, who love Jesus and love students, light up when a student arrives for a ministry event, that’s motivating and encouraging. I still remember many of our youth ministry volunteers who were instrumental in shaping my life and faith.

David Olshine, in his book, What’s Gone Wrong With Youth Ministry and How To Get It Right. says “Programs don’t keep students involved, people keep students involved.”

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Programs don’t keep students involved, people keep students involved. – David Olshine


Programs are important for many reasons, but it’s people who help keep students involved.

This is why it’s important…

– to have several adult leaders in student ministry.

– for them to be empowered to reach out and pursue students.

– to go after the one that is lost.

– to pray for students.

– to reach out when a student is hurting or needs special attention.

Of course, this probably happens most frequently when there is a programmed time to connect, but don’t count on the calendared event to keep students involved, it requires a connection with people.

This is good news during the 2020 pandemic. You don’t have to meet or meet consistently to keep students connected.

One of the big jobs for the student ministry leader is to recruit other adults to help connect students for the purpose of building their faith through discipleship. How are you equipping your leaders to reach out, care for and connect with students?

Here are three practical things you can share with your volunteer team:

Take Initiative To Connect

Notice when students arrive for an event or meeting. Encourage your small group through connections in a group text or social media outlet (use good judgment and solid boundaries). Start up a conversation with students – smile and ask their name if they are new. If you know them, smile and say, Good to see you – tell me one cool thing that happened to you today!”

Encourage Faith Boldly

Ask students how their faith walk is going? When they talk about struggles, ask how they believe God can be at work during this time. Invite them to share what scripture verse they’ve been reading or memorizing. Pray with them when they need wisdom or are going through an issue. Be bold in faith and faith will abound.

Notice Who Is Not There

Who isn’t there? Who has been missing lately?  Reach out to them and connect. Sometimes, I will just ask a student who seems to have become distant, “Do you mind if I keep you on my list to invite to things?” I have never gotten a “no” to that question. Notice who is missing and pursue them. [read: How Most Sheep Leave]

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Other Posts:

The Only Way To Build Relationships With Students As Your Ministry Grows

Three Ingredients To Keep Students Connected To Your Ministry

The Best Way To Keep Students In Church


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