I was a teenager when I became a Christ follower, so I know the value of student ministry. The Christian adults in my life in those days became family to me, who at the time had non-Christian parents.
Student ministry has changed a lot since then, though. In a recent Twitter and Facebook poll, coupled with personal interviews, I sought suggestions for improving student ministries today. Here are those suggestions:
- Don’t always separate students from adults. Students need the influence of adults, and adults often need the energy of students. Let them learn from each other. In some cases, any time with a Christian adult might be more than a student gets at home.
- Connect senior adults with students via a prayer ministry. Senior adults are often great prayer warriors, and they might welcome praying for students by name. When students get to know the senior adults, they learn to love and serve their elders. Everyone wins.
- Provide mentors for all students. Meeting this goal isn’t easy, but not trying to do so misses a primary means of New Testament discipleship. Timothy learned his faith from his family (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15), but Paul was still his mentor. Believing adults really do need to accept this challenge.
- Stop treating students as kids. Some students, although not all, are more young adults than kids. If we treat them as kids, they’re more likely to act like that. Treat them like young adults, and they might live up to that understanding.
- Teach them the gospel. One might assume that all Christian students hear the gospel at church, but that assumption might well be wrong. Student programs that are more fun and games than teaching truth won’t produce lasting life change.
- Connect students with the senior pastor. Students who know their senior pastor well will listen differently on Sunday – and be more likely to share their concerns with the pastor when needed. Student ministries with involved pastors tend to be stronger.
- Expect students to walk faithfully with God. Hold the standard high because the Bible does so for all believers, regardless of age. Students will often live up to – or down to – our expectations.
- Be genuinely Christian with them. Young people can smell a fake a mile away. In far too many cases, in fact, that’s all they know. When they meet somebody who’s genuine, faithful, and committed, they’re often willing to follow.
- Train students to be leaders. Many of us learned about leadership as leaders in the “youth group.” The group nomenclature might be different today, but the process is still the same. Let students try to lead, and walk beside them.
- Introduce them to the world. They already know the world’s a big one because they’ve grown up with the Internet. Take them next door. Take them to other places on this continent. Take them to the world. God will grab their heart for others – and raise up the next generation of missionaries and pastors.
What suggestions would you add to this list? Invite your church’s student pastor to add to this discussion.