The Healthy Student Pastor

z8bka7hqa3i-jordan-mcqueenStudent ministry can be a very demanding and challenging thing (especially if you’re doing in a full-time role). The constant demand of students and parents who need your attention never ends. The hours can be odd with most of your events happening at night or on weekends. It can become draining as you try to keep your mid-week program fresh and attractive week in and week out. On top of your weekly program it seems like there is always another event right around the corner.

But don’t get me wrong, student ministry is an absolute joy. I am honored God has called me to full-time student ministry and He has given me an amazing church to do it in. However, I have come to realize that student ministry is often a very demanding area of ministry that requires you to be healthy. I’m talking spiritual, relational, physical, and emotional health. Being healthy in all areas of life is a must for student pastors.

Spiritual. The spiritual health of the student pastor is of utmost importance. It’s important to themselves, their families, their church, and their students. If a student pastor is not spiritually healthy the students and the ministry, along with many other things, will suffer. A student pastor must keep their relationship with God as their first priority. This means walking with God daily and growing closer to Him. This means consistently getting into God’s Word on a daily basis for spiritual nourishment and strength. One pastor shares some wise words in regards to this area – “Don’t neglect your heart. Spend time in the Word, pray, and let God speak to you. Carve out time each day for this” (from the book Growing Young, page 62).

Relational. Student pastors must also be healthy relationally. I think this first includes their families. Student pastors must never sacrifice their families on the altar of their ministry. Far too often I see student pastors who are giving everything they got to their ministries while their family suffers the consequences. Loving and leading your family should always comes first. This also includes friendships. Student pastors must strive to have solid friendships outside the walls of their ministries. This provides an outlet for the student pastor to hangout with friends with no ministry agenda attached.

Emotional. The emotional health of the student pastor is also very important. It’s easy for a student pastor to be focused on the emotional needs of others (students, parents, volunteers, etc.) while neglecting their own emotional health. The crazy hours and demands of student ministry can cause the student pastor to experience burnout or even depression in some cases. The demands of student ministry can also cause stress and anxiety. It’s important the student pastor takes these things seriously and seeks help when they need it. This is where having some solid friends outside of the student ministry can help. They can be a safe place to go for healing. Also, student pastors should never be ashamed of seeking professional counseling or even pastoral counseling from another pastor. These are avenues God can use to strengthen you and get you emotionally healthy. It’s also important the student pastor has a hobby outside of ministry that serves as an outlet for them to refresh and relax. This will help them maintain emotional health.

Physical. This is often the area of health student pastors neglect the most. In the midst of eating way too much terrible food with students, student pastors must strive to keep themselves in good shape. This goes beyond just eating right, which is important, but also includes things like regularly working out and getting rest. This also includes making sure the student pastor takes a day off. We all need a sabbath (a day to rest from work). Student pastors must not neglect taking a day off to rest, which is closely tied to their physical health.

As you can see, student pastors need to be healthy in multiple areas. A student pastor that is healthy in these areas will be a blessing to their families, church, ministry, and students.

What I Teach My Students About Alcohol

img_0706A few weeks ago I took a few minutes in one of my talks to address our students about drinking alcohol. We were in a series on Noah and was covering the passage where we read about Noah getting drunk. I used this as an opportunity to help them see what the Bible says about alcohol.

I wanted to communicate three important things in regards to what the Bible says about alcohol. There was plenty more I could have said but I believe these three points give students a good foundation with what the Bible says about alcohol.

Alcohol is a gift from God that can be enjoyed. To anyone who believes drinking is a sin this statement may come as a shock. But the Bible is clear, alcohol is actually a gift from God. Psalm 104:14-15 (ESV) the Bible says, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” I want my students to see that alcohol, just like any other beverage, is a gift from God that we can enjoy. However, there are certain things about alcohol to keep in mind even though it’s a gift from God. First, we are expected as Christians to obey the law. The law says someone can’t drink until they are 21. To drink before that age is breaking the law, which is sin. Second, there are times when drinking may not be wise. So even though it’s a gift from God, it’s a gift we must use properly and in the right way. Like any gift from God, alcohol can be abused which leads us to the next point.

Drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk is a sin. The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking. That’s something we have the freedom to enjoy wisely. However, the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) begins with saying “And do not get drunk with wine.” Clearly getting drunk is a sin. I don’t want to teach my students drinking is a sin because the Bible doesn’t teach that. However, I do want to teach them getting drunk is a sin because the Bible clearly teaches that. It’s important to not only teach students getting drunk is a sin, but we need to teach them why it’s a sin. This leads us to the next point.

Getting drunk is a sin because you are allowing something else other than God to control you. When someone gets drunk they are under the control of that alcohol. That’s why people act a different way when they get drunk. The alcohol is controlling their emotions and behavior. As a Christian, we should never be in the spot where something other than the Holy Spirit is controlling us. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) goes on to say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is to always be controlling us, not something else. I want my students to understand the “why” behind the Biblical teaching that getting drunk is a sin.

If you want to listen to the portion of my talk where I covered this content with my students watch the video below. You can skip to 4:38 to pick up where I started talking about what the Bible says about alcohol.

A few years ago I posted another post here on my site about alcohol and teenagers that gained a lot of attention. Click here to check that post out.

End of The Year Youth Ministry Resource Bundle

Recently Terrace Crawford launched a new site called Ministry Downloads. I want to share an excellent bundle he has available starting Black Friday. The bundle includes $500 worth of youth ministry resources. The bundle includes customizable teaching series, Bible studies, and games. It also includes some graphics, forms, and other documents. The best part is you can get all of this for just $49. All these great resources have been created by Terrace and are designed for the local church. I’d encourage you to download this bundle and take advantage of these great resources. Follow the link below to purchase and download this bundle.

Click Here to Purchase and Download This Bundle

Terrace Crawford is an entrepreneur and youth worker-at large, with an affinity for Social Media. Crawford, named as one of the Top 100 Christian Leaders to Follow on Twitter, serves church leaders (particularly youth workers) through his blog, and weekly podcast, This Week in Youth Ministry (available on iTunes). Terrace frequently speaks on the topics of Leadership, Social Media, and Youth Ministry. He authored “Going Social: A Practical Guide on Social Media for Church Leaders (Beacon Hill Press)”, and was recently named as Young Influencer of the Month (July 2016) by Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources.

The Beauty and Ugliness of the Early Church

This past Sunday was Student Ministry Sunday at our church. This is a Sunday where our student ministry takes over the weekend worship services. One of my favorite things about this Sunday is that I get to preach in all the services. I continued our Acts series by talking about the beauty and ugliness of the early church from Acts 4:32-5:11. Below is the video of that sermon.

Book Review: Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry

gospelcenteredym_205_316_90There are a few books I consider “must reads” for people in student ministry (if you want to know what they are ask me). Recently I read a book I would add to that list and it’s called Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It’s one of the most theological and practical books I have ever read in regards to student ministry.

One of the strengths of this book is the variety of voices. Every chapter focuses on a different area of student ministry and each chapter is written by someone who has a passion and gifting in that area. Each chapter is written pretty much in the same way – a section on how the Gospel informs and shapes that area of student ministry and a section on how to practically grow in that area of student ministry. Also, at the end of each chapter there is a list of recommended books on the subject of the chapter.

Two of my favorite chapters were Eric McKiddie’s chapter on expositional teaching and Tom Olson’s chapter on singing. All the chapters in this book were excellent but these two were the ones that impacted me the most.

In McKiddie’s chapter, he argues that teaching the Bible is the main task of anyone in student ministry. He says, “While fun is an indispensable part of youth ministry, your main task is to convince your students, week after week, why they need Jesus and to show how the Gospel profoundly after every area of life” (page 55). He believes expositional teaching is the best method for this. After giving his reasons for expositional teaching in student ministry he gives some practical steps in how to craft a Biblical expositional sermon for students. His steps serve as great reminders for people newer to writing sermons as well as to seasoned veterans. Olson’s chapter on singing was another one that I really enjoyed. He argues that corporate worship should be vital a part of student ministry. He says, “It’s not just a warm-up for the message or a means to corral hyperactive teenagers. God has made singing important. Singing is vital for the health of our students and the strength of our ministries and, in harmony with strong teaching, singing will get the word of Christ dwelling richly in their lives” (page 142).

I could say more about these two chapters and the rest of the book but I’d rather you grab a copy and read it for yourself. If you’re in student ministry I’d highly suggest this book for you and your team.