Effective ministry to teenagers needs to have direction. Whether you call this a foundation, a vision, or purpose statement, you need to know what your destination is or you’ll never know if you’ve arrived. A great starting place to help you is the adult Foundational Sunday School Revitalization Project. Almost all of those relevant principles will carry over to the smaller scale of youth ministry revitalization.
Reaching teenagers with the Gospel can be a daunting task. Youth culture constantly evolves and changes. Teens today are vastly different than teens even ten years ago. (YouTube, Twitter, and Smart Phones didn’t exist in 2005!) You cannot reach the current generation of teenagers without a clear vision. A vision is not a guaranteed to work program to run nor is it a simple four-step process to easy success. No, a vision will bring clarity to your ministry and inform you of what needs (and doesn’t need) to be done. It is your guide. It will not focus on what you cannot do. Rather it will focus you on what you can do – reach the teenagers in your community.
A few key principles to help you as you form the vision statement of student ministry for your church:
- Start with prayer. Many problems in life are solved by asking the Creator and Sustainer of the universe rather than trying to figure it out on our own.
- Know what Jesus has asked to the Church to accomplish. We are not to provide day care. We are not to keep teenagers too busy to sin. We are not to fill their heads with unapplied Bible trivia. We are not to make converts. We are called to make disciples. Matthew 28:18-20. A simple definition of a disciple is a follower of Jesus who produces other followers of Jesus.
- Your ministry vision must be centered around relationships. Almost without exception,
“…students who experience life change usually have had a strong relationship with someone in our [sic] student ministry. Think back to what you remember most about your time as a youth. What sort of things come to mind? The lessons you were taught or the relationships you had with leaders? The relationships your leaders develop over time with their students will be remembered long after their lessons.
Your leadership team must understand the value of the relationships they have with their students. Help them think of ways they can build relationships with students. Provide opportunities for your leaders to build relationships…Volunteer leaders serve in student ministry because of their love for God and for teenagers. Equip them to build the relationships needed to impact lives.” (Jack Fiscus, 5 Keys to Life-Changing Student Ministry. http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Student-ministry-keys-to-life-changing-student-ministry)
There is a maxim (attributed to everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to John Maxwell) that is absolutely true when in comes to ministry with teenagers. They won’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Make sure you show them how much you care. Be intentional in developing relationships.
- Finally, ask good questions before defining a vision statement. How does the student ministry vision fit with the overall vision of the church? How is your church uniquely equipped to reach teenagers? What will student ministry do that is not accomplished by other ministries in the church?
Developing a vision for student ministry can be challenging. Do not be discouraged. In the movie sci-fi movie Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey‘s character Cooper travels to the other side of the galaxy. Without giving away too much of the plot, Cooper is stranded in outer space without supplies. He must dock with a space station to get supplies and needed equipment for the return journey back to Earth. This is not as easy as it sounds because an explosion has caused the space station to rotate faster than the tolerance of safe (or sane) docking procedures. Cooper’s friendly neighborhood robot and co-pilot remarks that docking at the rotation would be, “…impossible.” Cooper replies, “No. It’s necessary.” He then attempts to successfully dock the space ship despite the insurmountable challenge.
You might feel like reaching this generation of students is impossible. But it is not. God uses people who feel ill-equipped in impossible situations to change the world. And it is necessary. Students are floundering in the darkness of sin. We have to do what is necessary to reach them. Take a deep breath and remember Jesus’ words of encouragement “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26