You’re the coach, not the star player, when it comes to student ministry. Your primary job is not to lob the passes and score the points; rather, it’s to coach and train your students and get ‘em in the game. Which leads to our next “Top Ten Questions” topic…
Question # 9: How can I help my students become active participants in outreach and ministry, instead of passive observers?
There’s no doubt prodding student involvement is often more work than just doing it all yourself, but there’s a bigger purpose behind getting your students off the bench. It’s about discipleship – mentoring and nurturing their faith walk. Spectators may learn a little something by osmosis, but active, involved participants develop a stronger, more autonomous faith. That means that it will be a slower process than you may like as you seek to help your students step up and begin to live out their faith. But here are some concrete ideas to help you encourage active engagement.
Keep THE Cause front and center. Regularly challenge your teens to talk to their friends about spiritual things and to invite their unreached friends to youth group. Take the lead in carrying the banner for evangelism and wave it vigorously and often, so they begin to see sharing their faith as a natural overflow of their relationship with God.
Recruit students to meet and greet. These students should do more than just say “hi” to people when they walk through the door. Here are some tips for your teen greeters:
- Take the initiative to introduce visitors around.
- If a visitor comes alone, sit by them during the meeting for the first week or two. Talk to them after the meeting wraps up. Get to know them so you can judge which friendship cluster they’re likely to have an affinity with, then actively work to help them plugged into that group.
- Ask light ice breaker questions up front like: “So glad you came tonight…how did you hear about us?” “Where do you go to school?” And then move to more directed spiritual topics and questions after the meeting like: “Did what my youth leader said tonight make sense to you?” “Do you have any questions about what you heard tonight?” “Would you like to join us for…?”
- Ask for a phone number and follow up with a call or text. Invite them to future events.
Worship. Genuine worship takes teens deeper with God. Invite students to lead and look for ways to make involvement accessible to all ability levels. Keep it simple and remember that your goal is not to put on a major production, but to glorify God and touch hearts and lives. (You’ll learn a lot about where your students are at emotionally and spiritually if you get them involved in worship.) Here are some ideas:
- Invite a specific student to bring in a favorite Christian artist’s song and share what it means to them.
- Ask your students with musical abilities to prepare a song to share.
- Invite those who are musically challenged to write a poem to God and share it.
- Ask a student to share a “favorite psalm” and explain why it’s their favorite.
- Ask your church’s worship pastor to coach some of your teens in this area.
Prayer. Set aside time for your teens to pray. Model how to beg God for the souls of friends who need Jesus. Show them how to pray for things of lasting spiritual impact, going beyond requests like Aunt Ida’s broken hip. Change it up in terms of how you do it each week. For example:
- Let teens pair off with a friend to pray.
- Light some candles and have a time of silent prayer and reflection where teens zero in and pray specifically for their friends who need Jesus and ask God what their next step with that friend should be in terms of spiritual conversation.
- Gather anonymous prayer requests by asking teens to write down one specific request. Then pass the requests out to the group and pray together. Let your teens know that you’ll continue praying for these requests throughout the week. Then do it.
Share stories and share the GOSPEL. Build in time for your teens to be out front.
- Invite them to share their stories about living and sharing their faith. Reserve two or three minutes a week to have a teenager share their good, bad or ugly story. Successful or not, the very fact that they are trying to share can encourage and inspire others to do the same.
- Invite and coach various individual teens to deliver the salvation segue and share the GOSPEL at the end of your meetings.
Nothing grows students in their walk with Jesus like active involvement in ministry. You’ve seen this on mission trips, so you know it’s true. It’s time to translate that principle to the homefront and get ‘em in the game.