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It’s natural, as youth pastors, to want our student ministries to succeed.  We want to see spiritual growth, numerical growth, all while appearing like we’re busy and we know what we’re doing.  But I also think that sometimes, our desire for a successful ministry may very well hinder the future growth of the church.

Too often Student Ministry has become a bridge to nowhere.  Students graduate from the youth group and leave the church.  I believe that there are a couple of simple ways to help students take ownership in the church as middle schoolers, so that when they do graduate, they are already bought in!

Integrate teenagers into the church body today.

How can a student in your youth ministry feel a part of the church when they are always separated from the church?  While I completely agree that teenagers need their community, sometimes we sacrifice the Church body for the sake of “community.”  We must realize the difference between community and isolation.

Our student ministry team has found that the best way for teenagers to feel a part of the church is to completely integrate them into our weekend services.  No longer do we have students in one building and the rest of our church in another.  No longer do new families walk in and not see any teenagers around.  No longer do students walk into our church worship service for the first time after graduation.  Our teenagers are fully engaged into the life of our church, and it is great seeing middle school students sitting in the front of the worship center each week leading the way in worship!

I definitely believe that teens need their community, and we still give that to them on Wednesday nights, but not at the expense of the overall Church body.

Empower teenagers to be the NOW generation instead of the next generation.

Teenagers can do nearly anything an adult can do, but the church often questions that, and therefore never opens the door for them to serve or to contribute, hiding behind the mantra of teens being the NEXT generation.

But, if we always say they’re next, then they’re never now.  

What integrating teens into the weekend church worship experience does, is it immediately opens the door for them to have more serving responsibilities.

Since integrating our teens on the weekends, we see students every single week, greeting, running lights, camera and video, passing communion and offering, leading in Children’s ministry, and being a part of our worship teams.  We never have a student takeover weekend, because it would look exactly the same as all the other weekends!  Plus, this frees up the youth pastor to interact with parents, new families, and the rest of the congregation every weekend.  Student Ministry in your church becomes MORE visible, not less visible.

And now when students graduate high school, they still have a sense of belonging in THEIR church.  They are still serving, and they are still coming to weekend worship!

When given the opportunity and the vision, teenagers are willing & capable!  Student Pastors must believe that, but more importantly, Church Leaders, Senior Pastors, and Executive Pastors must believe that. When the entire church buys in, the teenagers are the ones who win.

We always have to be asking…Are we worried about what our student ministry looks like today, or what the Church will look like tomorrow?

-Nick Ballard

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are you making teens feel like they have ownership in your church?  
  2. What are some ways we can better pass the baton of ministry to them before they leave us?

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