Youth Ministry

Why You Should Start A Student Ministry from Scratch: Part 1

Why You Should Start A Student  Ministry from Scratch.


Pastoring a small church in a rural setting presents several challenges. Some are unique, others, common too others in different settings. One of the biggest among those is having the right staff in place to do the kind of ministry you feel called to do.

If you’re like me, you may feel that you have a certain type of gifting and that means you only do certain things. For me, that would be communicating. I believe, as introverted as I am, that I have been given talents that help me in public communication, so preaching and teaching are a natural fit for me. Because of my introversion, building relationships with students doesn’t seem like a successful venture.

So what do we do? A lot of us would like to wait for the perfect person to come along who can lead our student ministry. The 25 year old Bible College graduate with a spouse and 1.4 kids who is as active as they were when they captained the football team in high school and as mature as the 65 year old lead elder in your church. Oh, and they will work 20 hours a week for free, attend local school events, plan a lock-in, and get your kids signed up for camp.

In 13 years of vocational ministry, I have never met that person. And if I would have, I doubt they would come work with me for free.

So the only two options we are left with are:

  •  Give up on the idea of student ministry.
  •  Start a student ministry from scratch.
For the person who takes Jesus’ words seriously, the first option isn’t an option. So, we are left with the latter. But how on earth are you supposed to do that? You’re a small church, with limited resources, and even less time.

Before we can get to the how, we need to understand the why.


Here are 3 Reasons to Start Student Ministry from Scratch


1. You Have to Start Somewhere

You have to start somewhere. I know we all have dreams of having a student ministry with 45 students and 5 committed volunteers. But unless you leave your current church to serve at another congregation with an existing student ministry, you have to start from scratch.

Yes, it’s going to mean lots of hard work. Trial and error. Ups and downs. Wins and losses. You get the picture. But think of it this way: you get to create the culture of what can be a thriving ministry.

Yes, you’re going to spend hours in prayer and preparation. But think of what the harvest could be like! Think of the impact you can have on students and their families. Student ministry isn’t glorious. It’s messy. If it a breeze, you would have found the perfect leader by now.

So it may be awkward if your first gathering only has 4 students. Mine had 2. But trust me when I say that when you have 8 students the next week, you have a feeling that God must really be at work.

Every thriving student ministry had to start somewhere. And so do you.


2. Student Ministry is Vitally Important to Long Term Spiritual Health.

Student Ministry is vitally important to long term spiritual growth. For who? For everyone. Yes, student ministry isn’t just to keep teens engaged in church for a few years before they graduate high school. I started thinking about all the people that can be positively impacted by student ministry:
  • Students (obviously)
  • Schools (stop complaining about your church not being in the schools if you don’t have a student ministry)
  • Parents (we don’t think about this one enough)
  • Siblings
  • Volunteers (they need to hear the messages and lessons too)
  • The Church (students are the church of the future, they are part of the church NOW)
The list could go on and on. Student ministry isn’t a babysitting service. It is not purely a fun time. It is a ministry as much as anything else a church engages in, maybe even more so.

Study after study shows many of our young people will leave the church after high school. Some will return, many will not. And even for those who come back, should we be content with their wandering?

The seeds of truth and love we plant in student ministry bear fruit. Often these are the life lessons that will cause the prodigal to return.

3. Students Need Jesus

This may sound like an obvious oversimplification, but its true. I’m 32. Students today face far more temptations with much more ferocity than I did when I was in their shoes.

Generation Z (those born from 2000-present) will be the largest generation in American history. Yet, percentage-wise, they will likely be the least churched generation in American history. We should weep over this. But here’s the kicker: students are also more open to spiritual things and conversations than their parents or grandparents.

In other words, we can change their future. Well, Jesus can, but we can be the instrument that changes them.

Students face a myriad of challenges, from the continual breakdown of the family, the availability of pornography, drugs, and the last thing they need is for the Church to just sit back and watch them head down the path to destruction.

Student ministry is hard. But it’s worth it. And God will give you what you need.

You need a student ministry? What are you waiting for?

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