Home Youth Leaders Youth Leaders Blogs Disposable Versus Indispensable: Some Thoughts on Student Ministry

Disposable Versus Indispensable: Some Thoughts on Student Ministry

Last fall I spoke at a church about reaching the coming generation. A lady about 26 years old came to me and told me about her experience in student ministry. She told me the two things she remembered from all her years in student ministry were two statements:

“Don’t have sex,” and “Invite a friend.”

Her story may seem rare to you, but I have heard this or something similar far too many times.

We have a lot of disposable elements to student ministry-some do ski trips, some don’t . Some do community service projects, others don’t. Some have massive events with giveaways, but not all. Some go on mission trips, others do not.

What would you say rises to the bar of indispensable ministry?

Jonathan Edwards said when we analyze a movement to determine whether or not it displays the distinguishing marks of a work of God’s Spirit, we observe some elements that do not in themselves help us to know whether it is from God or not.  Just because there is a lot of emotion, for instance, does not prove it is from God or that it is not from God. Just because we have many services each week does not demonstrate the hand of God, nor does it deny it.

We have elements in student ministry that are not necessarily bad or good, if done in proportion, but are not in themselves indispensable.

What is indispensible?

If you one shot, what do you want students to get?

When they finish student ministry, what should they take with them?

I would say, a lot.   But if I were to start talking about what is indispensable, I would start with two subjects that cannot be separated. Two subjects you cannot read the Scripture without seeing all over its pages.

These Two? The Message of God and the Mission of God.

Look at Luke 24:44-48. Jesus brings together all of Scripture and gives us the message of God (v 46) and the mission of God (vs 47-48).  In fact, all four Gospel records give us message, then mission aka the Great Commission.  Luke’s Gospel gives us the message, and part two, the book of Acts, shows the mission. Throughout the Scripture from the beginning of The Story to the end we see over and over the message and the mission.

We can and must do more. We must help them deal with peer pressure and family issues, and we must bring families together and help them grow. We must apply the gospel in a variety of ways. But we will never get past the fundamental focus of helping students, parents, in fact the whole church get the message of God and the mission of God.

If you are a student pastor, every now and then stop looking at the calendar and fretting over the next event. Get out of the office. Go somewhere and reflect: do your students understand the message of God and the mission of God? Are they living in the reality of the life-changing message of Christ, and are they living out and speaking up regarding the mission?  Do they see how the work of Christ in the gospel affects everything in life, not just their church life? Do they understand how the message of God applies to their friends, their finances, their future, their family? Are they already seeing how the mission of God relates to their sports team or study group, their college plans and vocational choices?

You do a lot of things with students. Just be sure you know the difference between what is disposable and what is indispensable.

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.