Pastoral Ministry is hard.
For those of us who’ve been called to such a responsibility, such a task, such a race, we understand the calling of “Pastor” is a glorious calling, but difficult; rewarding, but inconvenient; sweet, yet sometimes sour; smooth seas, but sometimes rough currents. Yes, the calling of Pastor is hard, but is glorious.
I have been asked to share a few thoughts on ministry. For Starters, I’m Brian Hancock, and I have had the privilege to serve the Lord as a youth director, Bible teacher, and now Student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. For nearly 11 years now, I’ve worked with the younger generation (from kindergarteners to college level students) to help them know Christ, and to grow in their walk with Him. It has been an incredible journey. Throughout ministry, I have seen agnostics find truth in Christ, drug addicts find hope in Christ, the depressed and lonely and outcast find identity in Christ. I’ve seen parents weep with joy as their son or daughter is baptized, thinking to themselves “I never thought this day would come.” Yes, God has done great things in these 10+ years, to Him be the Glory. Amen.
My current Pastorate, as I mentioned previously, is at Neel Road in NC. God has certainly moved here on Neel Road’s campus. To borrow a quote from our soon to be president, God has blessed “Big League.” I began ministry at Neel Road some 2 ½ years ago, In June 2014. As the months began to pass, our attendance began to increase from an average of 3 to 10 to 15 to an average of 30, present day. Not only did our numbers increase, but God began saving people. In 2016 alone, our student ministry saw 19 salvations, and 9 baptisms. God truly has done something special here, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to have been able to see it.
How did this happen? What strategies of ministry were put in place that God has chosen to honor? Well, I’m going to try and share them below. I want to provide a preface before we continue, however. It is my heart’s desire that God get full glory from what he has done here. Brian Hancock didn’t do this: God did. Read and use these few truths below if you would like, but please understand these aren’t intended to take away from his Glorious grace and mercy. Now with that said, here are some thoughts.
It is my belief that the following truths must be present in order for any student ministry to grow and flourish:
Love. You have to love your kids. Now, I’m not talking merely vocalizing your love for them. Loving your students takes action. It takes sacrifice, of your time and energy. Its answering the phone at 2am instead of putting it on silent. It’s meeting that boy or girl who is suffering from a broken heart at the office on your day off. It’s telling your students the sometimes inconvenient truths from Gods word when you see they are slipping in their walk. Its loving them with action, not just words. At Neel Road Student Ministry, there is a true since of family. We have pushed and pushed and pushed this since day one. With that since of family, comes love: for each other, and for their God. As pastors, we must model what it means to love, regardless of how convenient or inconvenient it sometimes can be. If you resolve to do this, you will see your students respect you, respect each other, and pursue their God on such a deeper, more intimate level. Learn to exemplify your love for them beyond your words.
Preach. I have never met a pastor that disliked preaching. The problem, however, is pastors aren’t preaching anymore. Instead, pastors have traded the pulpit for a soap box OR have used the 20 minutes they have to speak as a self help session or college lecture. Many youth pastors, out of fear of offending or hurting a student’s feelings, will water down messages and avoid certain passages of scripture. DON’T BE THAT GUY. Students don’t need to hear how good they are, because for anyone who has an ounce of Bible education knows that humans are totally depraved. Students need to hear that. They need to hear that we are sinners, and how a loving God came and died for their sin. They need to hear messages that are brought with passion, and boldness. Students need Pastors who aren’t afraid to be REAL. They need to hear that REPENTANCE is still important. Don’t be the pastor who preaches “ear candy” every time you have your students together. Give your students meat from God’s Word. Give them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. If you preach soft, you’ll produce soft sheep, and no pastor wants that. They want students that are bold, and live with conviction. Preach hard and boldly. Preach the Bible fully. Preach with conviction and tears, and watch God work.
Pray. John Piper once said that “Until you know that life is war, you’ll never know what prayer is for.” Prayer is KEY. If you aren’t praying for God to send students and for God to work and bless and keep your ministry established on his Word and truth, your ministry will fall like a house of cards. Ministry is too hard for any man to do it alone, and only through the blessing of God will any effort prosper. Ministry is a war, and the war is life and death. We all want to produce students who are prayer warriors, but don’t expect that if we aren’t constantly hitting our knees. Pray, pray, and pray some more. The more you seek him, not only will your confidence grow through him, but he will honor your prayers. Pray more, and watch what happens.
Go. Any healthy student ministry involves itself in missions and ministry outside of the church building. Local, national, and international missions and ministry opportunities are ways to expose them to practical ways of fulfilling the great commission. I tell my students constantly that we aren’t saved to “sit, saturate and sulk, but to serve, sacrifice, and suffer.” What better way to serve than through missions and ministry. Our students volunteer once a month at the local soup kitchen, we participate in non profit efforts around town throughout the year. On a national level, our students travel to Washington DC for a week of on street evangelism during the summer. Training is throughout the year, and students are required to meet certain criteria to participate. Foreign missions is something we are still working toward. We are giving faithfully to the IMB (International missions board) that goes to support foreign missionaries. Get your students involved in missions and ministries, challenging them to reach a world outside the convenience of the four walls of your church, and watch them grow exponentially for the kingdom.
How are you doing with loving your students? Is your preaching passionate? Do you make prayer time a priority? Is missions and ministry outside of the church building a focus for you in 2017? Take these truths, and consider them. These past 11 years have been great, and I look forward to the next 50. God bless you, may he keep you and your ministry, and may he always seek to serve him for HIS GLORY, and for the JOY of others.
Brian Hancock is the student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. He is a graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, NC. Brian has written a book called “Disciplined: Foundations of a Disciplined Disciple” which are available free of charge. Brian has spoken at several local churches, youth conferences, Bible colleges and Christian schools. Brian may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.