If I were to ask you the question, “What is the most important part of student ministry?” what would be your answer? Some people might say it’s disciplieship. The most important thing is disciplining the next generation. Some people might say evangelism. The most important thing is sharing the Gospel with students. Some may even say relationships. The most important thing is for students to build healthy relationships with Godly adults as well as other students. Some people may not say it, but deep down they put a lot of important in having a large student ministry, with the best building and best stage set up. I believe all these things are important and should be important parts of our ministry, but I do not believe any of them are the most important part of student ministry.
Before I share what I believe is the most important part of student ministry, let me share with you my journey thus far in student ministry that has led me to this conclusion. I grew up and served as a volunteer youth leader in a large student ministry. We had big Wednesday night gatherings, went to some big events, and went to a crazy and big summer camp. All I knew was big student ministry, I have never really been in, as a student or volunteer, in a small student ministry. Throughout my college years as I studied student ministry, I read and looked up to guys in “big” student ministries. Because I knew of nothing else, I desired and prayed for a big student ministry in the future. I loved the student ministry I grew up in and have loved the student ministries I have served in as a volunteer and as an intern. I thank God He placed me in some large student ministries that were top-notch. I still have dreams and a vision for a large student ministry and I am striving in my current student pastor position to see that happen, but I have come to the conclusion that having a big student ministry is not the most important thing. As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion that discipleship, evangelism, and relationships are not even the most important thing. I believe, with all my heart, that the most important part of student ministry is the student pastor’s relationship with God.
Your own [referring to the student pastor] relationship with Christ should come first. How can you model mature Christian faith if you’re not growing. Teens need to see the priority of your relationship with Christ as something real and genuine-not just something you talk about. Plus, the more your love grows for the Lord, the more your love will grow for the teens around you.
A lot of times, including myself, student pastors put great importance on the work of Christ rather than the person of Christ. The most important thing in student ministry is making sure the student pastor is growing in his personal relationship with God. That is the starting point of student ministry! Houston Heflin, in his book Youth Pastor: Theological and Practice of Youth Ministry, defines youth ministry this way: “Youth ministry is a Spirit-led discipleship process by which God works through Christian adults to lead teens into relationship with God and to Christlike maturity as part of the body of Christ, the church.” Did you catch that? Student ministry is God working through adults. If that is how God works through student ministry, student pastors, and their leaders, must be growing in their personal walk with God. That is the source of student ministry, that is the most important thing!
I do not think a student pastor can focus enough on his personal relationship with God. His walk with Christ must come before student ministry. It’s his walk with Christ that will make him usable and effective in student ministry. Where is your focus? What is the most important thing in your student ministry?