I’ve been a bi-vocational youth pastor for seven years now. And while I’m nowhere close to perfection in this thing called “youth ministry,” I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t, so I thought I’d pass along some of that insight to you, my fellow youth leaders, to save you the trouble of learning things the hard way!
1. Your prayer life is key.
As student pastors, we can get so focused on programing and studying that we forget to pray about it all. We’re often so busy trying to do what we think should be happening in our ministry week in and week out that we don’t make time to pray for ourselves, our students, and our youth volunteers. Here’s something to ask yourself: Do you spend more time programing than you do praying for your ministry? Prayer will not only fuel your ministry but also keep it focused on what God puts in your path daily.
2. Focus on evangelism.
Each week, I challenge my students to share their faith. Every Wednesday night, we do what we call “Take 5 for the Gospel,” where we have five students talk about the Gospel conversations they’ve been having. This time keeps the group focused on why and how they should tell others about Christ and encourages all the students to be building relationships so they can have those conversations. I’ve learned that a big part of making that time successful is to ensure I’m building solid relationships with the students so that they’re comfortable enough to be open about their own faith and Gospel stories.
3. Leaders lead and show it.
Let me ask you this: How much are you showing your students that you’re sharing the Gospel yourself every week? How often are you telling students about your victories and struggles with sharing the Good News? Students need to know that you have the same urgency to share the Gospel that you’re calling them to. If they don’t feel like you’re serious about sharing your faith, they’ll be less likely to prioritize it themselves. Jesus was always diligent about telling His disciples the plan, but he also modeled it to show that He too was in the fight with them.
4. Make disciples who make disciples.
What steps are you taking with your students to multiply? It’s super-important for them to share the Gospel, but we also need them to both be growing in Jesus themselves and teaching others how to go deeper in Christ and to share their faith as well. I know we all want to see huge numbers in our youth ministry, but let me ask you this: Is your ministry a mile wide and 1-inch deep or 10-feet wide and a mile deep? Let me also ask you: Are you allowing yourself to be discipled? We should model what we want to see in our students.
5. Bold visions align your ministry.
Do you think about the future? Often we lose sight of how bold our ministry is to be for the Kingdom. Studies show that most people—even up to 85 or 90 percent—who come to know Christ as their Savior do so before the age of 18. I want to say to you, in case no one in your church ever has, that as the student pastor, you are the hinge of conversions in your church. I encourage you to come up with both short-term and long-term Gospel Advancing goals you want to accomplish with your students. Go nuts!
6. Make sure your ministry is biblical.
OK, fun fact: God was the one who called us. So instead of asking God to get on board with our plans, we should get on board with His plans by making sure our ministries are biblically driven. What is your conversion growth, meaning how many teens have come to know Christ? And how many of your students are sharing their faith? We don’t want to be the ministry that brings students to Christ, and then we just leave them at the cross. Let’s make sure our students are doers of the word and not just hearers. Of course that means we need to be doers of the word as well!
7. Build Gospel projects, day after day.
When it comes to assessing my ministry, I love to use the acronym G.R.E.A.T. I regularly ask myself:
- Is my ministry God-honoring, Radical, Exact, Achievable, and Time-Sensitive?
- Can people look at my life and tell I’m a Gospel Advancing leader?
- Can people look at my ministry program and calendar and conclude that advancing the Gospel is a high-priority for us?
Asking yourself these questions can help your ministry stay on the path to biblical success. You may not feel like a success, but if you measure your ministry using these 7 marks, you can’t go wrong before God.