Wednesday, February 08, 2012

3 Secrets to Seeing Maturity in Student Ministry

Last night, I got to hang out with some of our students here who've started a ministry night they call TNT. It's actually a mixture of a few of our WestWay kids and their friends from a few other churches and friends from no church at all. They get together every week and hang out for about a half hour, have some kind of devotional talk/thought, then break up into smaller groups to talk about issues with which they wrestle. As far as youth ministry goes, it's not really anything too out of the ordinary... except one thing:

From the beginning, TNT has been planned, promoted, and directed by students. They've been going for about a year now, and last night was the very first night I'd even been in the building for their time together. (There is an adult or two who are here just in case they're needed, but they were both tied up last night, so I got to be the substitute!)

Last night, after they hung out for a while, I have to admit that I was starting to wonder if they did anything else. I'm all for relationship building, but I was hoping to see them do something a little more meaningful with the relationships they were building. Just as I began to wonder if there was something else they needed to be doing to make the most of their time together, it was as if some silent signal went off. They put down the ping pong paddles and stepped away from the foos-ball table and everyone headed to the side room, where one of kids who's spearheaded much of TNT prayed, read a chapter from Blue Like Jazz, and started a pretty good conversation.

A year ago, if I'd asked him to get a bunch of his friends together and read to them and lead a discussion about what it means to follow Jesus, he would have thought I was nuts. (I may be, just for the record.) But last night, he did exactly that - and it was his idea. He's been reading and being impacted by what he's reading, and wants to share it. He's not the only one. These students are not afraid to step out and share how God is challenging them.

A lot of youth ministry is pouring yourself into young people and waiting. Rewards are delayed... gratification is anything but instant... It's so good when you get to catch a glimpse of the maturity that God is bringing about. I'm glad I was able to make it last night... If you want to see maturity developing in your student ministry, here are a few things to keep in mind.

If you're doing youth ministry...
Keep pouring. Keep chasing Jesus and allowing him to breathe His life into you, then keep sharing that life with your students.
Don't expect instant results, but treasure those rare moments where you actually get to see the difference Jesus has made through your efforts.
Don't do it all yourself. Let your students get out on that ledge where they can experience the joy of being a conduit of God's grace to their peers. (And find other adult leaders who can help them navigate life, as well.)

If you're not doing youth ministry...
Why not? You've got something to offer and the next generation desperately needs to connect with Christ in you. Chase Jesus and let him breathe His life into you, then find someone who needs you to share that life with them.
You probably don't like me that much, and I'm not sure why you're still reading my blog. But please come back often and keep reading - maybe you'll catch the bug!
Help us. Too many youth leaders are carrying too much of the youth ministry load. We need your help. We may not always be very good at asking for it (I know I'm not), but we simply cannot be everything that all of our students need us to be. Please help us fill the gaps.


  1. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement Mike. One struggle I have with releasing the kids to actually minister to the others. But the reality of it is that they are just as good of ministers as we are. The struggle is that I as the leader do not have control of that situation, at least control the way I like it! But I can only minister to a few students effectively if I am always the one holding onto the reigns. Thanks for your words! I guess I'll come back and read your blog more. :)

    1. Knew I could count on you Matt!

      Reins are great for horses... not so much for students. Once we give up the illusion of control, it's amazing to see God working in ways that only He can. We're here to nudge and prod and maybe even to provoke - but control is His. (Not that it's easy to live that out, just better.)

    2. By the way... Keep at it Matt. I know your character will have a greater impact over time than you can imagine. Because it's His character being formed in you. Praying for you and your ministry and your family there.


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