Student ministry is under a lot of pressure lately. Books, conferences, blogs and books are calling for a change in student ministry. I hear constantly about how many students are leaving the church. It is startling and heartbreaking. Families set the standard for students. I think most would agree. Does family ministry mean we only invest in students who have parents who are committed to the church? I say no. I know many students who come that are looking for the truth of Jesus despite their parents. I have multiple friends who came to know Christ through a student ministry who invested in their life. If there were no student ministry, they probably would not have heard the gospel as a student.
But what about high school students who lose interest? Her are some reasons we want to let go of high schoolers and write them off:
- Family. Parents are the greatest influence upon their lives (what Mom and Dad do, they usually will do).
- Lack of Leadership. They are told to be adults but are still treated like children a lot of times in the home with no responsibility (we expect leaders but society expects adolescence).
- Relationship. The tendency is to pull away but what they desire is loving adults to come alongside and encourage them.
- Hard Questions. Are we willing to let them ask the hard questions? Are we willing to allow them to struggle through decisions?
- Rebellion. Students rebel and the church either rejects them or shows consistent love and encouragement. Never give up on them.
- Lack of Gratitude. Older students are not singing our "praises" anymore like a 7th grader.
When do you let go? I think it is a both/and not a either/or answer. Some would say only invest in younger students because the high schoolers will completely lose interest. I think it is a natural process for older high schoolers to struggle through their 11-12 grade years. The desire for relationship is higher than ever. A few graduates are now closer to me then they were in High school. This is why relationships matter more than a program or their mistakes. Relationship helps keep students invested in the ministry.
We need to maintain focus on the basics. We need to help students understand who God is and how to come to know Him. We need to unashamedly teach the Bible with passion and sound theology. We need to lead students to serve God with their lives.
Are we basing student ministry on the "now" or upon who they become?
What do you think? I'd like to hear your thoughts?