Wednesday, September 21st, 2016
If you have been around youth ministry very long then you have observed how some student ministries seem to grow wide but have little to show for it when it comes to growing deeply devoted followers of Christ.
On the other hand, you may have noticed that some youth ministries grow spiritual roots deeper than a Redwood tree but can’t’ seem to attract or win the lost through their efforts.
So today we are going to consider 7 essential steps you can take to grow your student ministry both deeper and wider?
The following list is a summary of sorts – a collection of responses that surfaced from a combination of student ministry consult interviews and surveys.
I have organized the list into 7 essentials found among growing youth groups. This list reflects part-time and full-time ministries without regard to the level of professional youth ministry training achieved by the volunteer or paid staff leader.
So what are these Seven Essentials for Growing Student Ministries Deeper and Wider?
The first one is
1. SMALL GROUPS: Growing student ministries focus on small group relationships as much as major event. Recognizing the important role small groups play in the spiritual development of an adolescent is a key factor to growing both numerically and spiritually. To calculate your small group effectiveness consider the ideal formula of having one small group for every 8 students in your average attendance. Each Small group should float between 5-10 students with an ideal of about 7 in attendance. Depending on the age group, interest level, and the time availability of the teacher/facilitator, one group may need to be smaller while others can afford to expand without losing the necessary high-touch factor.
If you want more info on the important role of small groups check out the training video on our YouTube channel dedicated to this topic and titled “The Importance of Small groups”
So the first essential is the importance placed upon small groups.
The second essential practice to growing deeper and wider is a focus on excellence.
2. Quality Excellence: Growing student ministries have a natural tendency towards programming excellence. The idea is that growing ministries strive for producing programming that is perceived as high quality. Regardless of whether it is or is not high quality compared to the star-powered mega-church – to the parents and youth involved in it and who serve within it – the ministry is perceived and received as programming excellence. Even if it is not Disney quality it is considered top-shelf by comparison.
So the first essential is a focus on small groups and the second is a pursuit of excellence. The 3rd essential is placing high value on involving students.
3. Growing student ministries will look for opportunities in which to place students into leadership roles. They want students to be personally involved in accomplishing their mission, vision, and weekly ministry gatherings. They know the value of students developing spiritually through doing, through preparing, and through personal involvement. This essential recognizes the fact that student leadership cannot be limited to those who play and sing with the praise band, are extrovert, or popular.
So the first essential is a focus on small groups and the second is a pursuit of excellence and the 3rd a high value placed on student involvement.
The 4th essential is to avoid failed ministry repetition.
4. Growing student ministries strive not to repeat unproductive ministry programming or events. Growth happens with those who are willing to discard or conclude a ministry that has proven unproductive over time with best effort expended to see it be successful. If you have given your best effort at making a ministry productive to no avail, then you must have the courage to discontinue it. Remember, an unproductive ministry due to programming ignorance or laziness is not the same as an unsuccessful ministry.
The 5th essential is what I call flood light encouragement.
5. Growing student ministries identify and encourage one another using a flood light rather than a spotlight. Understanding the benefits of flood light ministry is a key to high-touch growth. When we treat all students the same regardless of abilities, looks, popularity, athletic ability, etc. the tendency towards inclusiveness breeds acceptance and growth. A spotlight promotes individualism and exclusiveness much like a clique whereas a flood light distributes its beams equally regardless of how much or how little a youth brings to the table.
6. Growing student ministries will embrace and promote change. Now I don’t mean changing things for change sake (although sometimes even that is necessary in extreme stagnant cases) When it comes to change, we must remember that every ministry has its season. Some ministry programs will last a life time, like Summer Camp or Disciple Now Weekend. While the content may change and the programming updated, the concept of an annual ministry event like summer camp may outlive several generations of youth. On the other hand, some ministry initiatives have a very short life-span and are established with the intent of only accomplishing a specific, time sensitive ministry goal. Knowing when it is time to conclude a particular ministry program must be bathed in prayer and executed with humility and confidence.
The 7th and final essential to growing a student ministry deeper and wider is celebrating parent involvement.
7. Growing student ministries celebrate involvement and participation from parents and other adults. More than chaperones, these are adults who are youth friendly – who choose to invest in the spiritual development of teenagers. These are volunteers who are committed to providing students with significant other-person to which they can turn when the storms of adolescences flood their lives.
Deep and Wide . . . its not just a kids song from days gone by.
Friday, July 22nd, 2016
What is it that makes some youth ministries more successful than others? Why do some stagnate, decline or fail while others grow healthy and numerically? Is there a collection of habits that successful or exceptional student ministers practice? In our survey and interviews we have found ten practices that stand out as doable and adaptable for just about any student minister.
For this study I focused on two criteria for classifying a student ministers as highly exceptional. Managing a growing student ministry for at least three years. I chose three years for two reasons.
1. First, the 3 year mark is just under the cut-off of the average length of stay for paid student ministers in the US (3.9 yrs).
2. Second, the 3 year mark helps prevent a skewed result from those who have not managed or built a ministry but rather inherited the kingdom, so to speak. Growth for one year – good for you! Growth for two years – awesome! Growth for three years – now we might just have the real deal going on here!
Let’s take a look at these habits and practices.
1. They Exercise: While this is probably not what you were expecting to top the list it is a reality of healthy youth ministers and ministries. Youth pastors who remain active through a sport, hobby, exercise routine, running club, organized leagues, etc. were more likely to remain satisfied in their position and be successful in the youth ministry arena.
2. They Celebrate: Not only do they celebrate the involvement and victory of volunteers, parents, and student leaders, they also celebrate big and little victories in the lives of students, families, and major ministry events. The celebratory factor creates a reputation of joy and excitement radiating from a winning team.
3. They Are Not Afraid to Fail: Successful student ministry ships are captained by those who are not afraid to attempt something new or extraordinary. It is not that they are never afraid but rather they make a habit of overcoming fear in order to experiment with change or create something from scratch. They do not allow fear keep them from what could make the ministry successful.
4. They Are Confident: This is not the same as being arrogant but more akin to being secure – in what they know, who they serve and how they will organize the ministry God has entrusted to their care. Since the church already suffers from an overabundance of arrogant leadership, we should strive to balance the scales with humble confidence.
5. They Plan and Administrate Well: Over the years student ministers have acquired quite a reputation for being disorganized. I think it suffice to say that if you want to succeed in student ministry you will either organized, plan, and manage out of a natural skill set or you will force yourself to learn, adapt and acquire the needed skills to plan and manage well. Otherwise, you will become a casualty of chaos or burn-out.
6. They Prioritize Well: Successful student ministers have a habit of putting family in the correct biblical order – ahead of ministry. Some of the most frustrated people in the world are spouses of student pastors and often the root of a premature exit. Too often student ministers appear better at managing the ministry calendar than their marriage and families. It must be both/and.
7. They Maintain a Devotional Prayer Life: It is no surprise that successful student ministers hold their daily devotional time in high regard. They insist upon nurturing an ongoing devotional commitment. It is the one thing, no matter what comes, must be retained, restarted, reignited, and reestablished however many times it takes to preserve it.
8. They Are Not Afraid to Ask for Help: While this may appear surprising to some, most youth ministers realize how much pride exist among ministers. This is especially true among youth ministers who are often times young, inexperienced, and highly pressured to produce. This can lead to a reluctance to ask for help for fear of appearing inept. Successful student leaders know when it is time to get assistance and they are not too shy or proud to ask for it.
9. They Listen More Than They Talk: While this is a valued trait in any profession, it is especially beneficial in the world of student ministry. Listening is paramount among those who serve teenagers as teens need to express their thoughts, be heard, and listened to. Often youth are learning about themselves when they are talking, and listening will deliver a truck-load of insight.
10. They Know the Team They Are On is More Important than the Team They Lead: One of the realities of successful ministry enjoyment is arriving at the conclusion that the staff team is more essential to your success and happiness than the youth staff or volunteer team you direct. While both are certainly important, one must take priority and that one is the pastor and staff you serve alongside.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” I Cor. 9:24-27
Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Every minister must make time to do a little continuing Ed reading about Culture, Management and how to be successful in Student Ministry for the long-haul. Below are a few good books to add to your personal library.
1. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton
2. unCHRISTIAN: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity . . . and why it matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (Research from the Barna Group)
3. Student Ministry and the SUPREMACY of CHRIST by Richard Ross
4. Almost Christian: What the faith of our teenagers is telling the American Church by Kendra Creasy Dean