1. Student ministry exalts King Jesus in the power of the Spirit for the glory of the Father.
The “faith” of most teenagers in the church is *Moral Therapeutic Deism. At Southwestern, we prepare ministers who will give teenagers the antidote to that tragic perspective. That antidote is a high Christology, lifting the eyes of teenage believers to the reigning majesty of the Son, seated on the throne of heaven. Proper theology moves them from “It’s all about me” to “It’s all about King Jesus.” Such believers rise up and join Him in bringing His Kingdom on earth.
*Moral Therapeutic Deism is a term that was first introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by sociologists Christian Smith.
2. Student ministry builds its ministry design on an accurate interpretation of Scripture.
Some leaders use their own intelligence to create an approach to student ministry. Then they add a few Scripture verses so it will be more palatable to the church. We take the opposite approach. We start with Scripture and allow it to define approaches to student ministry. When we compare our intelligence to the One who spoke the cosmos into existence, we are confident that the Almighty ought to be the one who defines ministry with a young generation. We believe He does so in the Bible.
3. Student ministry places Scripture at the center of speaking, teaching, and discipling — leading to teenagers who increasingly have a biblical worldview, the ability to articulate sound doctrine, and the ability to interpret Scripture correctly on their own.
We believe an 18-year-old should know how to apply the basic principles of interpretation to any passage of Scripture. During junior high and high school, that teenager should take responsibility for his or her own spiritual growth. For the second time in his life, he should learn to feed himself. Under the guidance of parents, pastors, and volunteers, that teenager should construct a biblical worldview and develop the ability to articulate, embrace, and defend the doctrines of the faith.
4. Student ministry leads teenagers to Christ and mobilizes teenage believers to share their faith.
We believe the mission of Christ is the mission of student ministry: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We believe a youth pastor not mobilizing teenagers and leaders for evangelism is like a fireman who doesn’t fight fires or a surgeon who doesn’t operate. Lost teenagers today may have reservations about religion, but they are entirely open to the Gospel. They have not rejected Jesus. Today, they have never even heard about Jesus.
5. Student ministry recognizes, equips, and moves parents into first place in the spiritual leadership of their children.
Contrary to Scripture, the majority of church parents have attempted to outsource the spiritual leadership of their children to church leaders. We prepare youth pastors to spiritually awaken, call out, equip, and lead parents to again step into first position with their children — as they sit in their house and walk in the way (Deut. 6:4-9). We also champion godly families taking under their wing those teenagers whose parents are lost.
6. Student ministry leads teenagers to be involved in missions—locally, domestically, and internationally.
We believe 12-year-olds should be actively involved in making disciples of all peoples. We believe 18-year-olds should have the solid intention to take the Gospel to hard places for a lifetime. Many churches believe the only way to attract teenagers is through constant entertainment. We believe in joy and laughter, but we also believe teenagers are drawn to authentic faith that calls for risk, adventure, and sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel.
7. Student ministry consistently equips volunteers for their respective callings in student ministry.
If churches put a spiritually plateaued leader in a room with teenagers, a year later they probably will find spiritually plateaued teenagers. If youth pastors want to see adult volunteers grow in Christ, they have to take intentional steps in that direction. We prepare youth pastors to disciple leaders and to “be seminary” — teaching leaders everything they know about Scripture, teenagers, and youth ministry.
8. Student ministry champions teenagers embracing the full church, serving in all areas of church life, sharing community with the other generations, and being viewed as young adults by the congregation.
We view entering the youth ministry as almost a rite of passage. We call churches to view teenagers as very young adults who have gifts and abilities useful to the church and Kingdom today. We prepare youth pastors to immerse teenagers in the full life of the congregation, building around each teen a rich web of intergenerational relationships. We believe the concept that a youth group operates as an appendage to the church is outdated and not biblical.
9. Student ministry remains balanced and is not driven by fads.
Many youth ministries erratically follow the newest fad, book, or conference. Or, ministries may follow the personal interests of youth pastors as they come and go. We prepare youth pastors to hammer out a youth ministry plan from Scripture and then keep a consistent focus on that plan. We also train them to balance worship, evangelism, missions, discipleship, ministry, and joyful fellowship—as fads come and go.
If the churches of Western Europe had embraced these nine principles two decades ago, their churches now might be packed with young adults in love with Christ, His church, and His Kingdom. Instead, the churches mostly are empty. We pray that student pastors prepared by Southwestern Seminary will lead the American church toward awakening, vibrant churches, and Kingdom expansion.
By Richard Ross on Oct 10, 2014