Let me start by saying, I was a student ministry pastor for nearly 15 years. I know its tough, I know most student pastors are not only young but they are alone. They are isolated and there is no one pouring into them. I get it, in fact I personally meet with a group of student ministers in our community often and I hear their longing for some one to lead them as they lead students. I know how tough it is to work with today’s students and I feel your pain, I meet with a group of 15 year old boys 3 days a week and they are incredibly frustrating. I speak at 15 to 20 student events a year and if there is anyone who is on your side youth ministers its me!
With all that being said, our student ministries are producing consumers and not disciples!
I know because I inherit consumers & not disciples every year.
We have catered to their needs, we have attempted to compete with culture to have the coolest program in town. I spoke to a youth minister who in tears told me that over the last few years he had spent more time trying to create cool t-shirts & teaching series than he had in discipling students. What we save them to is what we have to keep them with. Unfortunately, we have a generation of young people who don’t know Jesus but know cool programs, bands, t-shirts, conferences & funny speakers.
The prophet Isaiah may have said it best with Is 1 – When he not only critiques but absolutely criticizes gatherings that don’t create lasting change!
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons,Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!
When our gatherings lose sight of Jesus we lose everything! Instead of offering our students the abundant life of following Christ or giving them a vision of making disciples we give them a show, a production or a t-shirt.
So I could rage against the machine for quite some time but I’m not sure that is productive:
Here are 5 things I suggest every youth minister does to start making shifts from a consumer culture to a discipling culture:
1) – Be Discipled!
– 95% of you have not been, so find someone you respect, someone who looks like Jesus to you & follow them. Ask them to disciple you! Find someone who’s life is worth imitating & imitate them!
2) – Stop Counting Attenders & Start Counting Disciples
– You have to change the scorecard from how many butts are in the seats to how many students are in huddles, how many students are serving, how many students have an adult (not a 19 year old) pouring into their lives weekly. I know you can fill an auditorium if you serve enough pizza, get a good enough band and do enough fun activities, but if that does not translate into disciples its all a “worthless assembly.”
3) – Huddle with a group of 6 to 8 students every week
– Make this your number one priority! This is more important than sermon prep, event prep & t-short design. This matters!
4) – Find moms & dads who know how to disciple their kids & recruit them to invest in other students
– Look for parents who love their kids & who’s kids love the Lord & invite them to help you. Listen to them! They may not know whats cool but they know how to raise kids who love the Lord. Invite them to help you, invite them to open their homes to other kids, invite them to huddle with groups of 6 to 8 kids in their homes. Pray that God shows up!
5) – Start asking yourself important Questions
- Is my life worth imitating?
- Am I walking with students close enough so they see my life?
- Who am I intentionally investing in today?
- Do the plans I am making this week make consumers or disciples?
- Am I willing for our numbers to get smaller in order to make more disicples?
- Am I inviting students to a relationship with Jesus while challenging them to live their life for him?