Student Ministry – Transitions (Part 1 of 3)

Student Ministry Transitions

The following is one part of a 3 post series on transitions in Student Ministry.  Transitioning IN to Student Ministry, the LAND BETWEEN, and then finally transitioning OUT of Student Ministry.

  • Doug Fields (youth ministry legend), authored a book called Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry.  In fact, I have that book on my desk, and occasionally pick it up and read a chapter or two, just to make sure that I stay connected with how I first felt as a 21 year old youth pastor!  How many of you remember your first youth ministry event?  Service?  Fundraiser?  That first retreat or overnight outing you went on?  Wow!  What an incredible passion and excitement we had then.  Many of us were honored and delighted that WE were selected or called upon to become THE youth pastor! 
  • Transitioning IN as a youth worker is fun, new, fresh, it’s a great feeling!  However, for a young, awkward, insecure 12 year old boy or girl, it’s not always that same joy and excitement!  
    • Don’t get me wrong, they love the idea of being a part of the youth group now, but they still have a lot of apprehensions, and sometimes the word awkward doesn’t even begin to describe how they feel!  We need to always remember that the feeling that we have is not always the same feeling that our students might be experiencing. 
  • The Student
    • Consider the individual maturity of every incoming student
      • Some of them might still wear Superman jamies, actually there might be some youth workers that still do!  Some of them might still wet the bed occasionally!  Some of them might be physically developing and maturing, others, still very much an adolescent…we must be VERY aware of these sorts of things!  I understand, there’s nothing spiritual about them at all, but they can easily interfere with a student’s spiritual growth and development!  It doesn’t matter if you present the greatest lesson since Jesus on the Mount of Olives, if they are not open and receptive to anything that you are saying, then it won’t be able to impact their lives in the way that you and I would like to see happen!
    • Identify their fears
      • We have to be able to ascertain where each student is in life, in order to go to where they are, and meet their needs!  Get to know a new incoming student.  
        • This is not just for the 12 year old, that is transitioning in from the Sunday School department, but let’s also consider the fact that they could be a new convert, transferring in from another church…so they could in fact, even be an older student as well.
        • I do know this…every student has some kind of fear…they might not admit it, but they do, and we need to uncover it, and at least help them to try to deal with it.  Probably not publicly, but through prayer and spiritual discernment, in fact, pardon my carnality, but even check up on what they’re posting on Twitter and Facebook!  Social media has really helped to eliminate a lot of guess work in student ministry!
    • Recognize their strengths
      • Just as important as identifying their fears, we should also recognize each student’s strengths!  There is hardly a youth class that goes by where I don’t try to point out the fact, and remind every student that they have some kind of special gifting and calling in life!  Something that is unique and specific to them!
  • The Youth Worker
    • Be proactive as opposed to being reactive
      • Now, your first stint as youth pastor, you’ll probably find yourself being more reactive, than proactive.  However, if you’re just starting out, I implore you to be deliberate and intentional!  
      • From your planning of events (I recommend a yearly calendar)…to detailed planning of an annual event…to your weekly gathering times (don’t be setting up the class room as students are walking in the door, and definitely don’t be putting a sermon together on your way to church)!
    • You’re not just preparing them to be a teenager, but preparing them for life
      • When we look at the big picture of student ministry, we have to realize that we’re playing a bigger role than just a spiritual leader in our student’s lives for 5 or 6 years, but we’re involved in the formation of their entire lives!
      • The truth of the matter is, we’ll be playing a key role in their lives during the time that they make some of the most important and decisive decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives!
        • Where they’ll go to college…IF they’ll go to college
        • Who they will choose as a life-long husband or wife
        • What kind of career that they pursue
    • Assume that you’ll be in student ministry forever
      • This used to really frustrate me (I don’t hear it as much these days as I believe that we value our calling as student pastors more than we used to), but people used to talk about using student ministry as a stepping stone to another area of ministry.  
        • First of all, the last time I checked, we weren’t called to student ministry to “practice” or to “cut our teeth” all for the sake of personal growth and progress.  This is A CALLING!  
        • Secondly, if student ministry is so important, then why do we feel we should only do it a couple of years
        • Third, it’s going to take you anywhere from 6-18 months to even “become” your student’s “student pastor” so why are you gonna quit, or “move on” when you’re just starting to gain their trust!  
      • The reality is, you may NOT be a youth worker for the next 75 years, but prepare for each service, minister to every student, plan every event, plan the rest of the year…plan the next year, like you will be in student ministry forever!

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