Category Archives: Student Ministry
Over the past few years, on this blog, I’ve been writing about middle school ministry, my experiences, the things I’m learning, and my life. I’ve shared what I thought was important and asked for dialogue from my readers. It has been fun, but I think that it is time for a change.
I would like to open this blog up to you.
What are some questions, concerns, struggles that you are dealing with in ministry to middle schoolers, or any students?
Here’s the thing. I’m not a conference speaker, published author, guru, etc. I’m just a guy that has been in the trenches of student ministry for 13 years. I don’t promise to have all the answers, but maybe all of us together can help.
I am not starting a coaching program, I am not going into consulting, and I am not trying to get anything from you. I just want you to know that you are not alone in student ministry and I would like to help.
So, what do you want to know? What are you struggling with? How can we help you? Leave a comment below or send me an email.
This past Wednesday night we did not do our regular programming. We didn’t have any games, music, videos, Bible study taught from stage, etc. Instead we gave the whole night over to our small groups to meet, have fun, eat together, read the Bible together, and share life with each other.
One of the goals of our small group leaders is to be a leader/mentor/shepherd to their students, but in the 20-30 minutes after our large group time it is difficult to accomplish that goal. So, we decided to give them the whole night to be able to spend with their students. Each group could decide together what they would like to do together. Some groups played capture the flag, some played video games, while others did a service project. It was great to see each group spending time together, and really bonding with each other. Each group also did a short Bible study together that was provided for them.
Next week we will have our regular weekly program, but I imagine it won’t be long before we give our groups another small group night to continue to build on the relationships being built with the students and leaders.
Have you ever given your whole program over to your small group leaders? How did it look for your ministry?
Fun video our small group leaders made for our fall retreat this past weekend.
This is part two of a series of Blog Posts on some “basics” of student ministry. You can read part one here.
It’s all about relationships!
Relationships with Students – This should be a no brainer when it comes to student ministry, but make sure that you put the relationship with students above your programs, events, activities, etc. Looking back I don’t remember all the programs, events, or activities that I did when I was in youth group, but I do remember the relationships that I built with my youth pastor and my Sunday school teacher. Also, as your ministry grows it is difficult to know each student, but make sure you can put them in a small group where there is at least one other adult who is involved in their life and getting to know them.
Relationships with Parents – Parents are not the enemy! Make attempts to get to know the parents of your students by giving them regular communication, having open door policies, returning phone calls, etc. When you build good relationships with parents they will help to make sure their students are at your ministries events, activities, etc. Also, let the parents know that you are praying for them, and that if they ever need anything that you are there to serve them too.
Relationships with Leaders – Make sure that you are building solid relationships with your leaders too. It is our job as the student pastor to reach out to them, encourage them, give them training, etc. that will help them become a better leader. Also, make time to just have fun with your leaders and let them know that you appreciate them. Take them to lunch, give them a gift card, write them a card. We can’t do ministry without great leaders, so make sure that you are building good relationships with them too!
Don’t get so caught up in your programs that you forget that it’s all about relationships!
Do you love ministering to students or do you love student ministry?
Let me ask this another way.
Do you love the fact that you get to minister to students during some of the most difficult times in their life? Do you love the messiness that comes with ministering to teenagers? Are you willing to accept students where they are and pray that God will use you to help them grow in their faith?
Do are you in love with the “coolness” of student ministry? The lights, games, activities, summer camp, etc.?
I think if we’re all honest with ourselves there have been times where we love student ministry more than we love ministering to students.
I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but I think that after some time we begin to drift away from the students we’re called to minister to and toward the “ministry” side of things. There are always programs, systems, etc. that need our attention and they become the “main thing” in our lives. I know that this has happened to me from time to time in ministry.
As we get ready to start another school year of ministry to students make sure that you love the students God has called you to minister to over the ministry you lead.
All of the students in our ministry have now started back to school and the summer of 2012 has come to a close. We’ve just sent a group of 9th graders up into the high school ministry, and we’ve welcomed in our new 6th grade students and families. It’s now time to reflect back on the summer and evaluate our events and begin to make plans for next summer.
Here are four ways that we are going about reviewing our summer activities.
1. Look at each event and determine the purpose of the event. Hopefully you went into the summer already knowing the purpose, but looking back you can see where you may have been unbalanced in your ministry. By looking back at all the events and determining their purpose you can know if you accomplished what you wanted over the summer.
2. What were the “wins” of the event? Each event has something that you can say was a “win” based off your purposes of the event. Were students saved? That’s a win! Did students make some new friends? That’s a win! Did parents come to an event? That’s a win! Look back and be encouraged by the “wins” that you saw this summer.
3. Was the event well attended? This question isn’t always a great determining factor because of family vacations, camps, and other events going on, but it can help you decide if you need to move the same event to a different part of the summer for next year. It may have been an amazing event that you need to do again next year, but just at a different time.
4. What was the feedback that you heard from students and from parents? Think back to conversations from the students and the parents about the summer events. It’s important to not just focus on the students feedback, but take the parents feedback seriously too.
We had an amazing summer, and were blessed to see God do some amazing things in the lives of our students! As we move into the fall we’re praying that God will continue to give us momentum in our ministry.
What are some ways that you review your summer activities?
Last week I celebrated my three-year anniversary at Prince Avenue Baptist Church serving as the middle school pastor. This will be the first year that I send a group of students to the high school ministry that have been with me since they were in 6th grade. When I first came to Prince I had been doing student ministry for 10 years and thought that I had it mostly figured out. I didn’t think that middle school ministry was going to be any different. Boy was I wrong! I’ve learned a lot over the past three years about middle schoolers and a ministry that is geared toward them. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.
1. They are still kids (kind of) – Middle schoolers love to play games, run around, and act like kids, but at the same time they don’t want to be treated like kids. They want to be grown up and have responsibility, but just not too much. They want to have their space and do things on their own, but they want to know that we’re still there to help them if they need help.
2. Focus on who they are becoming – When working with middle schoolers it is easy to focus too much on how crazy middle schoolers act sometimes. The thing that we all have to do as middle school workers is to focus on who they are becoming. Focus on what God is doing in their lives and how much you’ve seen them change spiritually over the course of a year or couple years. I can’t wait to see all the things these students are doing in the next couple years.
3. Not everyone “LIKES” middle schoolers - There is a big difference between putting up with middle schoolers and actually liking them. I’ve discovered that it is a special person who actually LIKES middle schoolers. They like the craziness, the changes, the challenges, the struggles middle schoolers face, etc. Middle schoolers simply want to know, “do you really like us?”
4. Middle schoolers are often overlooked - Not many people pay attention to middle schoolers. They are not kids who need adults to do everything for them, but they are not in high school getting their license, figuring out their future, college, etc. Middle schoolers are in the middle. This is one of the main reasons I really like this age group. I want them to know that they are important, and that God cares for them.
I’ve learned a lot over the past three years, and I’m looking forward seeing what God teaches me in the years to come!
Over the summer I’m reposting some of the most viewed posts from the past year.
The other day I wrote about the steps that we’re taking to transition our middle school students up into the high school ministry. Today I want to talk a little about the steps were taking to make the rising 6th graders feel welcome.
Prime time Weekend – Every January our children’s ministry does a program for the 5th graders where they meet every Saturday for about 2 months. Then in April they have a special weekend for those students that participated in the course by having a lock-in at the church and a trip to Six Flags. My wife and I chaperoned this event last 2 years and were able to hangout with the students for a while on Friday night. It is a great weekend to get to know some of the rising 6th graders over the course of the weekend. We have been able to build solid relationships with them over the weekend, and it gave us an opportunity to get to meet some of the parents.
Children’s Camp – Over the summer our children’s ministry puts on a camp. I had the opportunity to be the camp pastor the last two years, and I will be going back this year to be the camp pastor again. This again gives us a week to get to know some of the rising 6th graders by spending a week with them at camp. We were able to make some good memories with our rising 6th graders before they even moved up into the middle school ministry.
*** I know that all youth pastors do not have children’s ministry events/camps like the ones described above at their church. But, it is so important for the youth pastor to go down into the children’s ministry and begin making connections with the students that will be moving into your ministry in a few short months.
Base Camp – We did this for the first time last year, and are planning on making this a regular part of our middle school ministry. Once the new 6th graders have moved into our ministry we will be hosting a weekend event just for them. On Friday night the 6th graders will come to the church and we will have some time to play games, and get to know one another a little better. Also, we will be giving them some idea of what the middle school ministry is all about. The students will spend the night at the church, and then on Saturday they will head off with some of our volunteers to do some activity (bowling, park, skating, etc.). We are then inviting the parents of these students to come to the church to share some information with them about our middle school ministry, things they will experience over the next few years from their middle school students, etc. Also, we are hoping that it will be a time that parents can connect with each other and learn from each other.
It can be a scary thing for an 11 year old to walk into a room when they don’t know anyone and everyone seems to be so much bigger than them. I have found that being involved in some activities with them before their move up date has paid off in big ways with both the students and the parents.
What do you do to help students transition from the children’s ministry into middle school?
Everyone is out of school, so there is more time to hang out with students and build relationships. As a youth worker there are camps, mission trips, day trips, Bible studies, etc. that we are planning, leading, and trying to recover from.
Summer is also a good time for dreaming.
I don’t mean go to sleep and dream, but dreaming about what could be and what you would like to see in your ministry for the next year.
Here are a few questions that I use to help me dream about our student ministry:
- Why do students come to our ministry? Why do they stay? What keeps them coming back?
- What is something you would want your ministry to be known for? How can you make this happen?
- What is one thing that needs to happen in our ministry this year? What is it going to take?
- What is the one thing I would love to see God do in the lives of our students this year? In our ministry this year?
It’s not just enough to think and dream about these questions, but it is important that we take time to pray through answers so that as we prepare for the upcoming school year we have a vision and direction as to where we need to go. I know that summer is busy, but make sure you take sometime to dream about your ministry.