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Education . . . the road less traveled

According to Ken Kaegler’s study of Youth Leaders who were fired or burned out 85% are graduates of a college or University. Of those who hold a degree, 49% have an emphasis or specialization in Youth Ministry. This means 15 of 100 youth ministers have no college level training and of those who do hold a college degree over half have no specialized training for the work of student ministry.  Developing core competencies for student ministry service has never been more accessible yet many student leaders seem to be opting out of the academic component. Isn’t it enough that you love Jesus and love teenagers – well . . . NO it isn’t? The church deserves your best as do the staff, pastor, parents and students. From self-education to formal degrees you are the only one who can prevent you from becoming an expert in student ministry. To this end, consider obtaining as much training as you can. Perhaps a list of options can help you achieve your next goal.

  1. Attend a National Youth Workers Convention
  2. Adopt a mentor who has the degree and experience from you can draw.
  3. Observe and glean from a successful ministry in action.
  4. Enroll in an institute for greater credentials and skill honing.
  5. Network through professional youth ministry journals and culture experts.
  6. Subscribe to helpful blogs and webinars.
  7. Finish college or seminary.
  8. Audit a student ministry course.

Do whatever you can in pursuit of becoming an expert in your field. Commit to becoming a life-long learner of the ministry you serve.

Consider the following two options.

  1. Self-education:The primary idea here is to take the initiative to train yourself. You are either a window or an obstacle to learning. a) Research learning – this might include books, how-to resources, insightful blogs, websites, etc.  b) Mentor-ship – no one person can provide you all the mentor-ship you need so don’t look for “a” mentor but rather several mentor outlets who will allow you to become a sharecropper of sorts as you harvest from their field of knowledge and experience.
  2. Formal Education:If you have not been to college consider enrolling. If you are currently in school consider taking youth ministry electives or pursuing a youth ministry major. If you need to go back to school, enroll as soon as feasible. There are so many great online options through today’s technology that few excuses are credible.

Let be share three cautions:

  1. Don’t become a “download dog”. If the foundation of your ministry revolves around a downloadable file then you need to upgrade your level of expertise. Too often there is the temptation to google it, copy it and voila, your good to go for another Wednesday night. Let me encourage you to be a content creator. There is significant benefit in creating your own content and this generation appreciates it because they are themselves by nature content creators. In fact give them a seat at the creation table and allow them opportunity to produce student ministry content.
  2. A degree is not a magic wand. Having a degree does have its advantages but anyone can testify to the fact that a degree alone will not create success. There are plenty of ineffective ministry ships being captained by someone holding a college degree. Simply having a degree does not make you an effective student pastor but it does give you the knowledge base to become one.
  3. Don’t do nothing. Next year will arrive whether you advance your expertise level or not. Why not ring in the New Year knowing that you have taken concrete steps towards increasing your competence level.

Education is knowledge and those who lead God’s people have prayed for such a blessing as to know more about how to lead His people, obey His word, govern His leadership, and exemplify His will. May it be so with you as you seek knowledge for your position.

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” II Chronicles 1:10

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” Proverbs 18:15

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” Psalm 119:66