What I’ve Learned Over the Past 15 Years of Student Ministry

As you may have read Last Week, I am moving into a new role at our church. Last week was a farewell party with students, and last night I got to share my last message with our students as their student minister. I wanted to share with them 5 things I am taking away from 15 years of student ministry and how each of those take-aways can/should challenge them to grow in their faith. If you care to continue, below are the notes I used to share with them.

(Pictured: Our CSM Staff is great! Mr. Gary wasn’t able to make it,
but that dude has been serving students for some decades!)


I’ve been in three different and unique churches with three different and unique student ministries. I have made a lotof mistakes and have done somethings well. I want to share with you 5 of the most important things I’ve learned over the past 15 years and how they should challenge you.

1. Casual adults are great assets in student ministry. But committed, consistent adults are priceless.

  • The casual, “call me when you need me” adults are great to help with set up, chaperoning, picking things up, etc. Those adults are a big part of successful events in student ministry.
  • The ones that sacrifice every week to be down here are priceless.
  • You guys don’t know what these adults give up to be down here… to go to camp, mission trips, retreats, etc.
  • They’re missing out on time with their family, using vacation time, spending their money, missing out on a Sunday school class of their peers and friends, navigating the challenge of students that don’t listen or are disrespectful, & much more, all because they love Jesus and want to help you take steps to get closer to Him.
  • Give them a chance and a little respect and you could actually learn from them. Recognize the value they have. In a transition time, they will be the stability as the new chapter begins.
  • I wish I had done more to encourage them and give them resources to reach students.
  • Challenge: value your CSM Staff. Listen to what they have to say. Tryto learn and grow from their investment.

2. Most students will rise to whatever expectation you hold them to.

  • I don’t do a lot well, but one thing I think I’ve done a decent job at is pushing students beyond their level of comfort.
  • This has come with kick-back. Sometimes, when you hold people to a higher level of expectation they don’t want it and they get mad, leave, or fight it.
  • I’ve seen the fruit of this every time we have mission trips or I push a student to lead in a way they’re not comfortable. We’ve seen students lead discipleship classes because they were pushed, students lead worship, because they were pushed, students fall in love with missions because they were pushed, and students grow in their faith because they were pushed.
  • Allow people to push you, but ultimately you need to push yourself in your faith. Comfortable is another word for complacent. Don’t let comfort keep you from growing.
  • Challenge: Don’t be afraid to push your friends to grow in their faith. If you don’t, who will?
    • “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

3. Students are capable of more than most adults know, and are capable of more than most students know.

  • One of the most frustrating things in ministry for me is when adults don’t value the potential students have to serve and lead.
  • You are pushed in every area of your life except for spiritually. You’re told to “score better on the test,” “get stronger,” “run faster,” “do better,” “memorize it better,” “hit harder,” etc.
  • But how often do you hear: “Dig deeper into Scripture. Have you prayed today? How’s your quiet time? Who have you served this week? Whom have you shared the Gospel with?”
  • This will probably irritate many folks, but in my opinion one struggle in student ministry is that for the past decade the Church has not pushed students due to the fact that most students, and often times their parents, don’t see the spiritual development of their faith as important as their intellectual, social, or physical pursuits… much less seeing it as more important.
  • We are more concerned with beefing up our college applications and getting scholarships than we are in spiritual growth.
  • The Church has watered down student ministry to: “teach them to be good Christians and give them things to do to keep them out of trouble.”
  • Challenge: You need to push yourself to grow in your faith as much as, or more than, you’re pushing yourself to “get better” at something.
    • I promise you, being strong in your faith will have a much longer lasting impact on your life than anything else.

4. Students can be some of the meanest people on the planet, but students can also be some of the most compassionate, caring, and loving people on the planet.

  • I’ve seen students destroy the morale of peers. I’ve seen students absolutely refuse to step outside of their friend circle to talk to other students. I have had students say absolutely awful things about me… to my face andbehind my back.
  • I’ve also seen students sacrifice social equity to be a friend to the less-than-popular or the socially challenged. I’ve seen students truly sacrifice to serve others. I can get more done with a mission team of 10 students than I can with a team of 20 adults, and there will typically be less complaining.
  • Challenge: Serve people. Go out of your way to be Jesus. Jesus spent time in His group of disciples, but countless times He shocked the “religious” people by loving and serving the broken and hurting. Sacrifice your social equity for the Gospel of Jesus.
    • What have you done this week to “deny your self, take up your cross and follow” Jesus to the point of loving someone? – Luke 9:23
    • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mark 12:30

5. Difficulties in life/ministry/relationships are going to happen. Don’t let them stop you from following Jesus.

  • Circumstances can be extremely challenging. Families all too often fall apart. People let us down. But Jesus does not change. He continues to call you to grow in Him. He wants a relationship with you.
  • Sometimes, other believers will let you down. I’ve been hurt by churches and Christians. But what God has called me to be and do has not changed.
  • In ministry and in the Christian Faith, it requires you to Cowboy Up when things get tough.
  • Challenge: Don’t let anyone get in the way of you pursuing Jesus. When it feels like you’re the only one following Jesus, press on. It will not be easy. It will cost you. It will require sacrifice. But dadgumit it’s so very worth it!


Let’s wrap this up:

  1. Respect and value your adults. This SM is better because of them.
  2. Allow yourself to be pushed to grow, and be willing to push your friends to grow spiritually.
  3. Recognize your potential in Christ over your inabilities of the flesh.
  4. Love God and love people. Even when it’s convenient. Sacrifice your social equity.
  5. Sometimes pursuing Jesus is tough. Cowboy Up and keep pressing on.

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