I am very grateful for the student pastors and volunteers that serve students in churches every single week. As Christ stepped into our culture to serve us, they step into the teenage world to love and lead students. Because of the responsibility to pass on the Christian faith to a new generation, churches must have godly leaders investing in students. Because so many critical life decisions are made during adolescence and young adulthood, we desperately need leaders who can say as Paul did, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
As a former student pastor, I know student ministry at a local church can be incredibly challenging and draining. I have had essentially three roles in my ministry life: student pastor, executive pastor, and now vice president at LifeWay. And the most emotionally and physically draining of the three roles was, in my opinion, student ministry. It just took so much to do it well.
Wise student ministry veterans advised me to spend 1/3 of my time with volunteers, 1/3 of my time with teenagers, and 1/3 of my time with parents. It was wise counsel, but it also made for a brutal schedule: lunches on school campuses, breakfast meetings with volunteers, several nights out each week at games, dinner with other young couples involved in the ministry, continual contact with students I loved, preparation to teach, ministry with parents, and so on.
And while it was draining, it was also deeply rewarding. The game was fast, but it was also exhilarating. Each time I stood to preach to students, I had the sense that the Lord was going to radically change the trajectory of a student’s life. Each mission experience we participated in, I had the sense the Lord was raising up future missionaries. Each time a student began to study the Bible, you could almost visibly see his mindset shifting, his heart for others growing, and his realization of God’s holiness expanding. It was a bit addictive. Kaye and I loved that season in our lives. And by God’s grace, He did some amazing work in the lives of students. We were honored to be a part of that.
Because of my thankfulness for student pastors I am excited that we (at LifeWay) are partnering this week with the Urban Youth Workers Institute to present 360° Nashville. 360° is the premiere youth-worker development experience designed for urban, suburban, and multi-ethnic ministry leaders. I’ll be speaking along with Erwin McManus, Robert Smith, Ben Trueblood, and Larry Acosta. We will cover soul care, worship, community, and diverse, practical training. Leading us in worship for the conference is the Stephen Cole Band, and Propaganda will be performing some spoken word as well. It is sure to be quite an event. If you’re in the area this week, we still have space for you to attend.