I was recently in a large meeting with my friend Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, and we watched a video of a local church student ministry leader who was speaking both passionately and strategically about discipleship. I saw Jimmy take out his phone and start to type notes, so….
Me: “You are thinking of trying to hire this guy, aren’t you?”
Jimmy: “We are always looking for people who can lead like that.”
Me: “Student ministry leaders are sometimes the best leaders.”
Jimmy: “In most churches, it is the only role that does everything a senior pastor does. They teach the Bible to groups, recruit leaders, manage resources, counsel families, prepare and plan, and even perform weddings and funerals.”
Jimmy is right. The experience of student ministry prepares leaders well for other roles if the Lord leads the person to move into another role. If someone serves faithfully in a student ministry context, the person will be well prepared to serve faithfully in another context. Confession: Jimmy and I are also likely to feel this way because we both are former student pastors.
Effective student ministry leaders faithfully fulfill at least four critical assignments in their roles, and these four assignments are absolutely essential in other ministry roles.
In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul called the overseer “God’s administrator” or “God’s steward” (Titus 1:7). Student ministry leaders manage budgets and steward resources the church entrusts to them. How leaders manage the resources entrusted to them now is a great indication of how they will manage future resources.
According to the apostle Paul, the role of a ministry leader is not to perform all the ministry but to prepare others for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Effective student ministry leaders don’t feverishly attempt to meet every need, but they develop a team of leaders to effectively serve and shepherd students.
While people must be equipped so the body cares for one another, a loving shepherd is burdened that the sheep receive care and compassion. The apostle Peter challenged pastors to willingly and freely shepherd God’s people (1 Pet. 5:2). Effective student ministry leaders shepherd students through critical years of development in the midst of a challenging cultural context. In other words, effective ministry leaders smell like sheep.
The apostle Paul warned elders to “be on guard for the flock” because “men will rise up with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples” (Acts 20:28-30). Effective student ministry leaders guard the faith that “was delivered to the saints once and for all” (Jude 3), and they do so in a culture that is increasingly skeptical. In other words, student ministry leaders learn how to apply the truth of God to people who are daily assaulted with messages that contradict the truth of the gospel.
Faithful and effective student ministry leaders are able to move into a myriad of other roles if the Lord leads them to do so. How do you know if one can? Well, how ministry leaders approach these four aspects of their roles is a great indication of how they will approach another role.