It’s a joy serving in student ministry on a weekly basis. Sure, with any ministry area, there are plenty of mountain tops and valleys but to see students who want to know God, experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, and fall in love with Jesus, is truly an honor. So what does effective student ministry look like? As I have been processing and experiencing student ministry “in the trenches” over the last 7 years I have come up with five indicators that could identify an effective student ministry. This is a list not the list but definitely elements that I feel must be evident, meaning they take place on a weekly basis, within the student ministry.
Teach the Word. 1 Corinthians 3:11 teaches that our foundation is Jesus Christ. Too many student ministries build their ministry on things such as a particular leader, huge events, or some other external aspect that we think will attract a bunch of people. I’m not cracking on well-known leaders or big events, I’m just simply saying that cannot be our foundation. Why? Because that foundation will eventually crumble. We must build our student ministries on Jesus Christ and His Word and nothing else. Therefore, we must diligently teach the Word of God to students. This can be fleshed out in a few different ways. Whether it’s the student pastor’s teaching during the student worship service or during Sunday school/small groups time, the Word of God must be taught faithfully. When the Word of God is taught faithfully students are moved to want to know this Jesus guy we keep teaching about.
Make disciples who make disciples. Possibly the best disciple makers in the student ministry should actually be the students themselves. In the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28, Jesus commands all believers to go out and make other disciples. Therefore the question needs to be asked… “How well is our student ministry making disciples?” Do we have older students who are living out their faith so the younger students can see this? Discipleship is most effective when it’s visible and life changing. Do we have student pastors, adult leaders, and parents who are pouring their time and energy into discipling students? As a side note, I’m a firm believer in small groups. Whether it’s called small groups, Sunday school, connect groups, or whatever, this type of environment gets students in a small group with their peers studying God’s Word. Discipleship is huge in student ministry!
Equip leaders. There are two areas within this equip leaders idea. First, students take ownership within the student ministry. Seeing students led out in different areas of the student ministry such as the praise and worship team, the serving teams, the small groups teams, and so on. Students need to know they have ownership within the student ministry. Second, effective student ministry cannot take place without the help of solid adult volunteers investing into the lives of students. Adults can serve in capacities such as Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, camp chaperon, host homes for events, and so on. There are multiple ways adults can serve in student ministry. For the student pastors who may be reading this article, my encouragement to you is this: use adults who are growing in their own faith and whom you can trust.
Authentic worship takes place. We teach all the time worship is a lifestyle and not just singing songs but is this evident in our student ministries? Do our students simply worship on Wednesday nights and on Sundays… or do they worship just as much outside of the four walls of the church? Experiencing the presence of God in corporate worship should always lead us to live differently. Students need to live out their worship to God through the way they treat others, build relationships, and act at home with their family. Too many so-called “Christians” worship on Sundays and Wednesdays and then act the exact opposite the other days of the week.
Serving others comes naturally. We can teach serving until we are blue in the face but until students serve, not out of a feeling of obligation but out of the overflow of their heart, then we can’t say serving is natural. Ways that student ministries can serve is assisting their local schools with needs they might have (trash pick up, painting, etc.), visiting local nursing homes, helping the elderly in their church do things such as yard work, and so on. Again, this must come naturally though and not feel like it is a forced thing. When students see a need and want to meet that need… then you see the church actually being the church to a hurting and lost world.
The key to successful student ministry is relationships. Student ministry is very relational by nature, from student pastors building relationships with leaders and students, to small group leaders investing into the lives of students, to impacting parents. Top to bottom building authentic community within student ministry is key on the foundation of strong Biblical teaching.