If you are keeping up with student ministries blogs and articles, you might have ran across The Christian Post article called “Youth Ministry-Theology is Back” that was posted a few days ago. If not, click here to read that entire article. In the article, Greg Stier, head of Dare 2 Share Ministries, says that student ministry leaders are looking for more strategic ways to reach students and they are realizing “the importance of theology and making sure teenagers not only understand but also embrace their Christian faith.”
Barna has found that “three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” What is interesting about this statistic is these 59% of students are leaving before they even graduate high school! I believe the reason we are seeing students leave church (and their faith) either during high school or right after is because student ministry has been nothing short of “glorified babysitting” rather than training students to become mature followers of Christ. When we lower student ministry down to games, entertainment, and fun (which are all good things that have their place) we will loose students because they don’t really want that, they have plenty of it! What they want is something real, something authentic, something that can change their life! That is why theology MUST come back in student ministry! Good theology based on God’s inspired Word will change students, grow students, and produce life-long followers of Christ out of our students.
All of this starts with the student pastors and fellow leaders. If we want to see theology really come back in student ministry the student pastors must lead the way. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Here are three practical ways student pastors can bring theology back to student ministry:
1. Study Theology. I am not saying every student pastor needs to have a theology degree or they need to go back to college and get one, but I do believe every student pastor should be learning and growing in their knowledge of Biblical theology. Student pastors, you are just as much of a pastor as your senior pastor. We expect senior pastors to know theology and study it so why should we not expect student pastors to know and study it? It may do some student pastors good to put down the latest “student ministry philosophy” book and pick up systemic theology. Theology is all about God! As we study theology, we will learn more about God and our Savior Jesus Christ! As we do this, we will become better student pastors.
2. Teach Theology. Students need to learn theology. I believe the main reason students leave their churches (and their faith) after high school is because they have not been taught why they believe what they believe. They have not really learned the faith they claim. Unfortunately, that leads many students to just “profess” their faith and leave our student ministries after high school never really “possessing” their faith. After student pastors study theology they must then teach it to their students. I’m not against teaching on “social issues” or relevant issues, but the best thing we can do for students is to teach expositionally through the Scripture. That is where we find theology and that is what students need!
3. Live Theology. This might sound like a “duh!” statement, but there is nothing worse than a leader who has studied theology, taught theology, then goes out and lives a life that doesn’t match up with that theology. Students want to see their leader (and leaders) live out the theology they teach. That means that we as student pastors and leaders must “look carefully how we walk” (Eph. 5:15) because our students are watching. Fellow student pastors, as we study theology and teach theology, lets be careful to live it out in front of our students. Students need leaders who are real and living out their faith.
I hope you do not think I am bashing modern student ministry. I am extremely encouraged and excited about the way student ministry seems to be going. It seems that more student pastors and leaders are seeing that students want to learn the Bible and are not happy with the “status quo” student ministry. Students want t change the world and we owe them good theology to make that happen!