A few years ago I added to my teaching of evangelism courses a focus on teaching student ministry classes. I’ve always had a passion for the next generation, and had written a lot and spoken often on youth and youth ministry. This fall I teach the Foundations of Student Ministry course, and in January the Missional Student Ministry course I teach with veteran next gen pastor Jeff Lovingood.
Why should a student in seminary take a student ministry course? Well, a student going into such ministry should, but what about others? When choosing electives, why this one? Here are a few reasons:
1. To equip students going into student ministry. Believe it or not, some students go to seminary, come to graduation and then become student pastors having never taken the opportunity to take such a course. I’m not going to argue that a course or two in student ministry automatically gives you all you need to know; but it’s a bit remarkable to me that a student might have the opportunity to learn foundational issues, to work through key practical aspects of student ministry, and to read helpful books and interact with other students while in school, and not take advantage of the opportunity. A few times over the past few years I’ve had students come to see me who were about to graduate and take a student ministry position, but who never studied it on an academic level. What becomes apparent in those meetings is how much the given student has not thought through issues from parental relationships to calendaring, from relating to the pastor and staff to planning a youth camp.
2. To help those in other fields relate better to student ministry. Suppose you are going to be a lead pastor, a church planter or a missionary, for instance. You will be relating in some way to the next generation, or if in a local church position, you will likely be relating to a student pastor and that ministry. Learning about student ministry can help you understand more the world of teens, and work better as a staff to minister to the whole church.
3. To help your perspective on young people. Sadly, although we teach here that young people are not goofball adolescents who just need games, but are young men and women who need to be trained up as missionaries, so many in the church still treat teens like third graders. A student ministry course can help you know more about the coming generation, how to relate to them and how to see them so you can challenge them to live for Jesus now, not later.
4. For some, it will help you as a parent. For students who are married or will marry and have kids, learning about student ministry will help you as a parent in at least two ways. First, it will give you perspective on the youth culture and what youth face, and a perspective on youth as noted in point 3. Second, it will help you to disciple your own children in the context of the ministry of your church and to rear them with a missional focus.
5. Finally, a student ministry course offers a practical, real-world focus to balance the more theoretical courses you take. Don’t get me wrong, I love those subjects. I took years of Greek and Hebrew, extra philosophy, theology and Bible classes, and consider all these at SEBTS to be student ministry courses as much as any I teach. But a student ministry course can help you think through the real world implications of relating apologetics to the youth culture, or explaining the Bible and theology in more depth (hey, if teens can learn trigonometry in high school, they can learn theology in church!) where teens actually live.
As I look back over my theological education, a few choice electives served to complete my degree in a way that prepared me intellectually, spiritually and practically. I pray your education will do the same for you.