Yesterday I wrote on the first four marks of a family-equipping ministry, as compiled by Steve Wright and published in the Family Ministry Today blog. Today is part 2, which is written during a thunderstorm warning with possible hail/tornadoes, on a 75 degree day in February, on Leap Year Day, in the last year of the Mayan calendar. Thanks Dr. Moore for your tweet earlier, it made me laugh!
Here is the list again, with yesterday’s in bold:
- Family-equipping ministry seeks to make Christ above all else beautiful and declares an uncompromising Gospel to those who do not know Christ (Galatians 1:6-9).
- Family-equipping ministry is measured by lasting disciples rather than attendance campaigns and focuses on the glory of our matchless Savior (John 15:1-15).
- Family-equipping ministry truly partners with parents and prioritizes the task of resourcing, training, and involving parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
- Family-equipping ministry prioritizes and champions equally the two institutions that are God-given: the Family and the Church (Acts 2:42-47).
- Family-equipping ministry seeks men who are biblically qualified pastors rather than charming activity directors (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
- Family-equipping ministry develops a ministry environment that is healthy for a student pastor and his family; an environment where pastors will desire to stay long past today’s destructive, brief tenures (Matthew 10:10).
- Family-equipping ministry seeks to mentor students for adulthood, marriage, and family rather than seeking to develop lifelong youth group attendees (1 Corinthians 13:11).
- Family-equipping ministry invites, teaches, and expects older generations to invest in those younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2).
Family-equipping ministry seeks men who are biblically qualified pastors rather than charming activity directors (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
For your viewing pleasure, or agonizing frustration, watch this:
Sadly, there’s a lot of truth to this, maybe not Ignatius exactly, but there’s an expectation in student ministry for youth ministers to be cool and fun and plan great activities. Most churches wouldn’t actively say they’re looking for Ignatius, but typically it looks like this: we want someone young and energetic who can engage our students, connect with them, build relationships with them, and relate to them on their level. Here’s the problem with that, students don’t need another voice on their level. They already get that from television, peers and social media. What they need is an authoritative voice who can speak the truth of Scripture in their lives. Activities are great and can be an incredible tool for connecting students to a church, but if the primary goal of a student ministry is the next big event or big activity, it’s like building a house of cards. It may grow very large, but it stands on nothing. Seeking pastors to fill our student ministries does several things that make the Kingdom stronger:
- It prepares men for pastoral ministry – Most student pastors are younger guys who desire to one day fill a pulpit and lead a church. Treating them like pastors and expecting such from them in a smaller, more specialized role is an incredible learning experience. There’s room for mistakes, you can learn along the way in a safer environment where there are still crises but not on the level a lead pastor deals with.
- It creates a legacy for lead pastors – What better way to invest your time than to become a Paul to a Timothy? Lead pastors can invest in their student pastors and pour into their lives.
- It sharpens and refines the calling – Many guys enter student ministry as their first exposure to ministry, and over those years they spend in that they learn how God has wired them and what He has called them to do
Family-equipping ministry develops a ministry environment that is healthy for a student pastor and his family; an environment where pastors will desire to stay long past today’s destructive, brief tenures (Matthew 10:10)
Depending on where you look, the average tenure of a student minister at a church is 18 months. Which means that is shorter than just about any significant commitment except a Kardashian marriage. Any number of factors can play into this: salary, job expectations, family changes, calling shifts, church pressures, burnout, or simply put the honeymoon ends and it becomes cat-herding to get anything done. Whatever those circumstances are, the end result is not healthy. We spent the first two years here dealing with the fallout and lapse in leadership and have come through it much stronger. A church I know well went through 7 youth ministers in 8 years. The casualties of this leadership trend are devastating with students becoming bitter, disconnected, families leaving a church, etc. Let me propose that there is a better way. A family ministry environment is one of collective leadership rather than solitary, one where there is a team put together to carry the load rather than expect the student pastor to do it all, one where the church makes a significant and long-term financial and support investment in the minister and his family. That tells the minister that the church is committed to him and his vision for ministry, and creates an environment where he can thrive. Environments where lead pastors put pressure for numbers or “more X,” parents are unsupportive of the direction of the ministry, members are unwilling to step into volunteer positions, those simply drive energetic and ambitious young men to become bitter, disillusioned, and maybe even leave the ministry altogether. May we repent of how poorly we treat our young ministers and make a commitment to invest deeply in them so they can leave a lasting legacy in our churches.
Family-equipping ministry seeks to mentor students for adulthood, marriage, and family rather than seeking to develop lifelong youth group attendees (1 Corinthians 13:11)
The Boss wrote a song called Glory Days, which is all about reminiscing about high school and how those were the best days. There’s a lot of correlation to that song and many church youth groups, where graduating from youth is seen as a death sentence because “it won’t be like this ever again.” I love the students in our student ministry, but at some point I want them to leave. I don’t want them to be 40 year olds sitting in a pew reminiscing about camp because that’s the high point of their life. Instead, a family ministry model seeks to take students who come into a youth ministry as spastic 6th/7th graders and produce a maturing disciple who can feed themselves the Word and are prepared to serve in the church, make adult decisions, have biblical discernment, and ultimately get married have families and love Jesus. We’ve tried to intentionally get our students serving in the church, and many have. It’s wonderful to see them taking up offering, working AWANA, playing in the nursery, leading worship in the band, and many other ways. I want them to find their grace-gifts and put them to work. There are a few who will be teaching for me over the summer (they just don’t know it yet, <insert evil laugh>) because I want to cultivate their gifts of leadership and ministry. All this is intentional, because when they graduate I want them to leave and do something big for Jesus.
Family-equipping ministry invites, teaches, and expects older generations to invest in those younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2)
One area I have deep regret over is that I don’t have any senior adults actively involved in our student ministry. Many I have asked shared that they were involved before, but didn’t think they could “connect” with the students now. My response was always “You’re right you can’t, I’m 29 and I can’t connect anymore sometimes.” My dream for our student ministry would be to have several couples in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s mentoring students, teaching Sunday school, and going with us on trips. Why? Because many of those adults have walked with Jesus, been in godly marriages, and served/loved the church longer than the student’s parents have been alive. And that is an often untapped treasury of wisdom, experience, and biblical knowledge in student ministry. Carrie and I had a deep relationship with another couple at our church in Memphis who were in their 60s. They loved us, prayed for us, invested in our lives, took us out to eat, and really wanted to get to know Scott and Carrie, not the student minister and his wife. We had lots of other very meaningful friendships with other couples, but Charlie and Betty Covington still have a special place in our hearts. I want our students to have a Charlie and Betty they can look back on years later and thank God for them. We want Samuel to have older men in his life that he can look at for an example of a Christ-following husband and dad. Connecting generations is one of the great strengths of family ministry, bringing together people who have nothing in common except the only thing that really matters, Jesus. And how beautiful it is.