What to Look For in Your First Student Ministry Position

hourglassIt’s easy to rush into full-time, or part-time, student ministry when you’re young, fresh out of college, and are passionate about working with students. But if your not careful, you can rush into a position that may not be the best for you. There are a few things you need to look for when you’re searching for that first student ministry position. Like many young adults fresh out of college with a ministry degree in hand and a heart burning for students, I jumped on the first ministry position that was offered to me. I didn’t take enough time praying about it. I didn’t look into the church enough to see if my ministry philosophy matched theirs. I didn’t stop to see if my heart was passionate about the things that they were passionate about.

During my first year of student ministry, I found myself in a church that was extremely different from me. Everything from my personality to ministry philosophy didn’t line up with the church. By God’s grace, He allowed me to have a smooth exit from that church, and even though it wasn’t the church for me, I am grateful for the people who embraced a young guy and allowed me the opportunity to gain experience.
 I learned a lot and enjoyed my time there as their student pastor. But at the end of the day it wasn’t the right place for me. God has now placed me in a church that is a perfect match for me and I’m thankful for it.

I don’t want other young student pastors to just jump on the first position offered to them. I want them to be patient and to find a church that is in God’s will, as well as a place where God can use them to grow a healthy student ministry. Here’s what you should be looking for in that first student ministry position.

Find a church that you would attend even if you were not on staff. This is a huge one! Don’t just look for a church to work in, look for a church that you and your family or future family would enjoy. You want to be at a church you’re excited about, not because you work there, but because you go there.

Find a church your doctrine and ministry philosophy line up with. Don’t just glance over their doctrinal statement on the website. Spend time asking questions about the church’s stance on important doctrinal issues and make sure you agree. You may not agree with everything 100%, but make sure that those are the issues you can flex with. Also, make sure their ministry philosophy matches yours. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to change their philosophy or just do it your way. Their philosophy will always win, so make sure it lines up with yours.

Find a church that God gives you peace about. Don’t take a position unless you have peace from God. That means you will need to pray a lot and seek wise counsel from Godly people in your life. Wait until God gives you the green light. If there is some doubt and lack of peace, it may not mean a no, but at least spend more time praying and looking into the church.

These are just a few thoughts about what you should look for in a first student ministry position. Believe me, if you’re patient and you allow God to lead; you will end up in a church that you love and a place where you can do effective ministry.

Searching for that first position is tough, but be patient and wait for the right church where you feel like God is leading you. It may take longer than you wish, but you will be glad you waited when you’re in that position that is just right for you.

This post is a version of a guest post I wrote a few weeks ago for Aaron Helman over at Smarter Youth Ministry. Check out that site for more great content and resources for student ministry.

Guest Post: Does Theology Really Matter in Youth Ministry?

theology-matters“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.

The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.

Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.

I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?

This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.  

3 Things to Think About When Changing Methods in Ministry

Earlier today I posted the following quote as a status on my Facebook page:

‎”The church can’t use yesterday’s methods in today’s world and expect to be in ministry tomorrow.” Elmer Towns

I read over this quote as I was doing my textbook reading for one of my seminary classes. It got my attention and I agreed with it so I posted it on Facebook. I didn’t think it would get anything feedback other than a few “likes” but it got some negatives comments with people who didn’t agree. I am perfectly ok with people disagreeing with this quote and I do not believe it is anything worth fighting over. But as a response to everyone who agreed or disagreed, I wanted to share, at least how I believe, we can change our methods, but not change our message. The message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will always be the same, but as we do ministry in an ever changing world our methods may have to change as well. Here are three ways to think about when changing to new methods in ministry:

1. Know what things are “closed hand” issues and what things are “open-handed” issues. What I mean by this is that there are some things such as core doctrines of our faith that we cannot compromise on or allow to be left up to interpretation. These are doctrines such as the Trinity, Scripture being God’s perfect Word, salvation only through Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, and things like that. These are doctrines and truths we must hold with a “closed hand” and fight for. These doctrines are the foundation to our faith! But there are some issues that are “open-handed” issues that are not necessarily foundational to our faith that we can allow compromise and disagreement on while still being believers in Christ. Examples of this would be Bible translations, style of worship music, and denominations. These are issues that don’t determine your faith in Christ, but our issues the Bible may not speak directly to so we use the wisdom and discernment given to us by God to make personal preference choices. “Open handed” issues are simply preferences and we cause damage to other Christians when we take something that is a preference and make it a doctrine or Biblical truth. My theology professor back at Piedmont International University said, “Don’t major on the minors and minor on the majors.” Make sure you know what things are major and what things are minor. This will help you decided how to change your methods, but not the message.

2. Pray and use wisdom. When it comes to methods, which are just preferences, we need to use the God-given wisdom and Holy Spirit to help us. When you want to try a new method, seek God for wisdom. Your new method idea may not be wrong or sinful, but God might give you wisdom and help you see it might not be best at the time. Even though methods are preferences and are different for everyone, that doesn’t mean you should leave God out of it. God wants us to use methods that are honoring to Him, so use wisdom and talk to Him about it!

3. Be so passionate about the message that you use whatever method God puts in front of you. Some people may not agree with me about this, but I believe we should be so passionate about the Gospel, the message, that we will use whatever method God gives us. I believe some people are so afraid and against new methods that they never reach anyone with the message! There are churches that dyeing and not reaching anyone because they are not willing to change their methods. That is what the Elmer Towns quote is all about, change our methods so we can reach more people with the message. I believe the Gospel, the message, is so important that I am willing to try to use whatever method is put in front of me as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s Word. I hope you feel the same way.

I love the Gospel and I believe it is the only thing that can change a person’s life and give them a hope. I believe this because the Gospel changed my life and has given me a hope! I hope we love the Gospel enough to use the new methods God gives us as we live in this changing world.

Where I Stand on The Doctrine of Salvation

For my Bible Doctrine 2 module with Dr. White, we are having to type a ten page doctrinal statement. The following is the Soteriology (salvation) section from my doctrinal statement. Enjoy!

The Doctrine of Soteriology

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

I believe in the pure, whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. The clearest and best description of the full Gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. In this passage gives us the full Gospel: Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. The Gospel is no more or less than what was given to us in this passage.

Salvation By Faith Alone

Salvation is the total work of God in bringing people from condemnation to justification, from death to eternal life, from alienation to filiations (Ryrie 319). To obtain this salvation, there is only one requirement. Ephesians 2:8, 9 tells us that it is by grace that we are saved through faith. Faith was the necessary condition for salvation in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament (Ryrie 321). Salvation is by faith alone (Romans 5:1-2) and not of works (Romans 11:6; 6:23; Ephesians 2:9). Some Catholics and other denominations believe that there are additional requirements for salvation other than faith. Such additional requirements may be baptism, sacraments, etc. but faith is the only requirement for salvation. I do not hold to the Lordship Salvation view with surrender and repentance. I also do not hold to the baptism as part of salvation like the Catholics.

Salvation Is A Free Gift

As discussed in “Salvation by Faith” section, salvation cannot be earned or worked for, but is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 5:1-2; 11:6).  In regards to Ephesians 2:8, 9, Reformed Theology and Dispensational Theology disagrees on the order of events and what the “gift” actually is. The Reformed view says that regeneration come before the special call to salvation due to the fact man is total depraved and cannot do anything good. The Dispensational view says that the special call comes before regeneration. I hold to the Dispensational view on this issue and also on their meaning of the “gift.” Reformed Theology says that the “gift” is faith that God gives so we can be saved. Dispensational Theology, and my view, is that the “gift” is the total package of salvation we get freely.

Results of Christ’s Death for Believers

The death of Christ means everything to us as believers, but because of His death there are a few things He was for us and has done for us through His death. First, Christ was our substitution. Substitution means that Christ suffered as a substitute for us, instead of us, resulting in the advantage to us paying for our sins (Ryrie 329).  Basically, this means that Christ died on the cross for our sins in our place (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 2:22; Luke 11:11; John 1:16; Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; Hebrews 12:16; 1 Peter 3:9). The crucial for this verse for Christ being our substitute is Mark 10:45 (Ryrie 331). Second, we are redeemed by Christ’s death. Redemption means liberation because of a payment made (Ryrie 334). Since Christ was our payment for sin that we owed, we are liberated from that payment (1 Corinthians 1:30; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2 Peter 2:1). Thirdly, we have become reconciled to God. Reconciliation means a change of relationship from hostility to harmony and peace between two parties (Ryrie 336; Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20). Before salvation we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10), but after salvation and being reconciled with God we are now children of God (Romans 9:8) and are a part of His family which is a act of God called adoption (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). Lastly, Christ was our propitiation, which means the turning away of wrath by an offering (Ryrie 339). By Christ offering Himself upon the cross for us, He turned the wrath of God from us (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17) It is that by which God covers, overlooks, and pardons the penitent and believing sinner because of Christ’s death (Evans 72). In addition to these, I believe because of Christ’s death we are justified (“declared righteous”) (Romans 5:1), regenerated (“born again”) (John 3:3; Matthew 9:28; Titus 3:5), and given the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The Atonement

Lewis Sperry Chafer says the word atonement is the term, which men have seized to express the entire work of Christ upon the cross (Chafer 127). There are various views on that have been propagated throughout church history (Ryrie 355). The view that I believe is Scriptural and fits the best concerning Christ’s work is the Penal Substitution view. This view says that Christ the sinless one took on Himself the penalty that should have been borne by man and others (Ryrie 356). I believe in unlimited atonement, which holds to Christ died for the sins of all human beings (Geisler 347). The Scripture if full of support for the unlimited atonement, but has no support for the limited atonement that is maintained by the Calvinists (Geisler 347). The verses that teach limited atonement are: Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 22:14; 23:37; John 1:29; 3:16-17; 12:47; Romans 5:6; 18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:14-19; 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 6; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:9; 1 John 2:2. Even though Christ died for all, salvation is exclusive. Thus, I hold to exclusivism which means that only one religion is true and what is opposed to it in other religions are false (Geisler 412). Our Lord makes this very clear (John 14:6; 10:9).

Eternal Security of the Believer

I believe in the eternal security of the believer (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24). Eternal security is the work of God that guarantees that the gift of salvation, once received, is forever and cannot be lost (Ryrie 379). This doctrine of security is one of the five points of Calvinistic system (“perseverance of the saints”), but it is more distinguished by the fact that it is set forth in the New Testament in the most absolute terms (Chafer 267).

Sources Used for this Doctrinal Statement:

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology: a Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1999. Print.

Evans, William, and S. Maxwell Coder. The Great Doctrines of the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1974. Print.

Chafer, Lewis S. Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Vol. 3. Binghamton: Vail-Ballou, 1971. Print. Soteriology.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: Volume Three : Sin, Salvation. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 2004. Print.