Leader 2 Leader: How to Get Students Connected to Ministries of the Church
Mon, 16 Nov 2009 - 1:53 PM CST
In his book "Bored with God," author Sean Dunn asks the question, "Why do they graduate from their faith?" The question is posed in the wake of numerous published statistics that indicate that significant percentages of students (65%-85%) who grow up in a Christian home and are part of a church youth group/ministry will disassociate themselves from their church, and possibly from the body of Christ, within a few years of graduating high school.
This alarming piece of information has led youth ministry specialists to offer multiple suggestions and strategic plans for transitioning students from high school into the adult ministries of the church.
While the best solution to this problem is to train students that have a spirit-filled faith to grow daily in devotion and knowledge to the Lord and His word, one practical thought worth considering is creating ways to make students a part of ministries of the church while they are teenagers. If students become accustomed to operating as active members of their churches and not just their youth ministry, they will have an easier time seeing their roles as adults in the church. Here are some practical tips toward getting your students involved in the ministries of your church:
Lose the "I only do youth ministry" mentality
Many youth workers get frustrated when they feel like their church is irrelevant in regard to worship style, environment or integration of media in ministry. A common response is to recoil into the world of student ministry. The thought is, "If I can't help design ‘big church,' I'll design youth ministry."
Aside from being an unhealthy model for training students to be lifelong members of the local body, it is not Biblical.
I Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Creating a relevant youth environment is a great way to facilitate ministry to students, but if you don't make some serious efforts to connect students to the ministries of your church, they will lose their connection when they graduate from your ministry.
Rally student support for the next outreach
Find creative ways to get students involved at your next church-wide outreach or "special service." Maybe you just can't bear the thought of promoting "The Singing Christmas Tree" or "A Night of Country Gospel Music" in your youth ministry. Think outside the box and get your students involved without expecting them to simply "attend" something they may not enjoy.
Finding ways to serve is always a great idea. Offer to have the youth take over logistics no one wants to do, (i.e. clean-up, outdoor greeting, food service, childcare, coat check, etc.) Just get your students and leaders involved, and make it a blast! One way to make it success is to set up a "Green Room" stocked with snacks just for student volunteers where they can hang out during down times.
Create a student ministry-sponsored, church-wide outreach.
Most youth pastors are on a constant quest to have a bigger, better outreach youth service. They look for relevant themes, prizes, dramas and games that will lure churchless students into hearing a presentation of the gospel, but what if you were to mobilize students to plan an event that targeted families?
This could be as simple as a service featuring your students doing worship, drama, and family-friendly games. Maybe you have the resources to think bigger, like an outdoor music festival featuring an act with a multi-generational appeal complete with inflatables, carnival games and prizes.
When resources are scarce, you could partner with the children's ministry to help conduct an Easter egg hunt or Halloween alternative event. The possibilities are endless. The point is to get your students doing something that serves the families of the church, not just the youth ministry.
Talk to your lead pastor and find out what kinds of ministry outreaches would benefit your church, and offer to head them up with a team of students and youth leaders! Don't have a team? This is a perfect way to form one. Define the mission; recruit a team.
It never hurts to make it a requirement
Requiring students to be involved in ministries of the church isn't necessarily a death sentence. Give them an incentive. Before you let students do the things that appeal to them, like playing in the youth band, joining a dance or drama team or going on a mission trip, require them to take part in one of the ministries. Examples: nursing home, children's, feeding the homeless and greeting ministries.
Train students to contribute to the weekly adult service
Every student will feel a connection to a service to which they are contributing. In student ministry, we train students to lead worship, do announcements, run sound, produce videos and welcome guests. It improves the quality of our youth ministries and helps students develop a sense of ownership that leaves them expecting God to do big things. Look for ways to implement this same philosophy in your church's main adult service.
Train students to be in the parking lot and at the entrances to your church on Sundays before service. Tell them to wave, smile and welcome everyone as they arrive for service. Buy a bundle of matching umbrellas (I got 10 for $50 on eBay), and have students walk people from their cars to the church on rainy days. Make hand-held "protest style" signs that read. "May I help you?" and have students carrying them around the church on Sunday mornings.
The possibilities are endless. You are creative, so come up with something your students will enjoy and your church will appreciate. In the long run, your pastor will thank you for contributing to church growth and for serving the congregation.