For the past 5 or so years I've had the privilege to be in student ministry. I have learned a lot since I jumped into ministry.
I thought I'd share a few missing links that I wish I knew when I started in ministry.
- Expectations - I am learning to not have expectations. I know it sounds bad. I have learned to appreciate each staff I have worked with and appreciate their differences and personality. God has worked in my life to pray for and encourage those I serve alongside with in ministry. Life is too short to hold grudges or be critical of fellow ministers!
- Relationship-driven ministry BEATS Event-driven ministry every time - My tendency is to plan my calendar to be packed full of events. I have learned that having a packed calendar does not mean that I'm filling students spiritually. The "American Dream" of student ministry is to keep the students "motivated" from one event to another. My prayer is that students will learn that God's Word is ENOUGH for them to grow spiritually. Events help in this process but are not the goal. Events can not build relationships and keep students strengthened through the "roller coaster" school years.
- Focus on the students who want to become leaders. I spent a lot of time trying to convince/motivate/almost beg students (and parents) who did now want to surrender and follow Christ. I'm not talking about students who are un-churched, but the ones who are members. I find that the hardest people to lead are the ones who have been in church their entire lives and have become "numb" to the movement of God. Jesus set an example of investing in 12 disciples (only 11 graduated) and spent a majority of his time with Peter, James, and John. I've learned that I can speak and pray for students to follow Jesus, but at the end of the day they are going to have to make the decision! Disciple and train students to reach their friends and families for Christ and then SET THEM LOOSE!
- Encourage and Equip Parents - Parents are one of the missing links in student ministries in the past 10 years. At first I thought parents needed to "get with it!" Now I realize more and more that they are the main spiritual influences in their student's lives. An ongoing issue that I deal with are parents who allow their 12-16 year old student date whomever their student decides is "cute." Parents need to set boundaries when it comes to relationships, media, and friends! If they do not set biblical convictions in the home, most of the time what message series we are talking about will not sink into their hearts.
- Mentoring - Relationships are the key component for students to learn how to live for Christ. I am changing up my plans to fit more students into my schedule. I plan on taking students with me when I go places. Simple steps to build relationships make an impact. Mentors in my life always spent time listening to my problems, needs, prayer requests and more. I pray that I can do a better job at this in the future.
- Quality time with Cassidy - Ministry can be draining. Setting times to unwind and just talk to one another is a priority in our marriage. I have learned through experience that I must plan to make time for my wife or ministry will plan it for me. It is easy to "spiritualize" and spend all my time working and talking about ministry. The problem is that my main calling is to lead my family spiritually! If that fails, then it is a domino effect on ministry. My prayer is that I will do a better job of loving my wife (like Christ loves the church) and serving God together!