Student Pastor: Get Out

Get out, relocate your ministry. The best parental advice I ever received­­ and the advice I pass on the most­­ is this:

Find what your kids love to do and do it with them.

My son Josh and I love sports. Beginning with a trip to Wrigley Field when Josh was 12, we have been to over ten different MLB parks. We¹ve enjoyed live NFL and NBA games, minor baseball games, and more Tar Heel games than we can remember. I helped coach Josh when he played sports. We love sports! Something that drives us crazy in sports is so-called “prevent” defenses. This is the defensive posture taken by a team in the lead so as not to lose the advantage. The problem with a prevent defense is it shifts from an aggressive, attack mentality to a more passive, don¹t-screw-up posture. Too many times a prevent defense actually prevents a team from winning! Once you lose the momentum it’s really hard to get it back. The teams that demonstrate a perennial proclivity toward winning tend to be those who never take their foot off the gas petal when they have a lead.

When the church sends a message of protection over mission, young people inevitably find some place to explore. Often these places are the very environments the church seeks to protect them from.Alvin Reid
Josh and I fear that the same problem seen in prevent defenses can be applied to a lot of student ministry today. Without intending to do so, so much of student ministry­­ and many Christian parents­­ focus so much on protecting teens from the evil around us that they create a hold-the-fort mentality. There is plenty of evil around us, make no mistake about that! The problem is this attitude happens at the time when young people exhibit a greater interest in exploring, learning, and taking risks. When the church sends a message of protection over mission, young people inevitably find some place to explore. Often these places are the very environments the church seeks to protect them from.

A successful sports team pursues winning and creates a culture focused on making winning a habit. We believe that focusing students and their families‹and the entire student ministry‹on aggressively reaching out to touch and love others, is at the same time the best way to protect them from evil and to grow their faith. A great affection for Christ and a radical obedience to Christ leaves little time to waste one¹s life. Give students a mission, keep them focused, and they don¹t have time to focus on the evil around them. We think Jesus would agree, for the last thing He told His followers to do was quite an ambitious goal:

Go and make disciples of all the nations.Jesus (Matt. 28:19)

This is why Josh and I wrote our new book GET OUT: Student Ministry in the Real World by Rainer Publishing. Building on my books Raising the Bar and As You Go, this one offers a vision for getting student ministry out of the church building into the culture, and in particular in the public schools. It¹s loaded with examples by real student pastors in real ministries. Josh is now a grown man, married, and a youth pastor, and I teach student ministry classes at SEBTS.  We collected these accounts and added our own thoughts to help student pastors to, well, get out!

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