For some student ministries discipleship is a priority in their ministry. For other student ministries discipleship is not a priority. Discipleship must be an important part of every student ministry. I have visited with student pastors and volunteers over the years and discovered that many desire to see discipleship as a priority in their ministry but they do not know where to begin. To start we must understand the foundational elements of discipleship. Dennis Rogers, the Discipleship and Family Ministry Specialist of the Georgia Baptist Convention, gave these great foundational tenets of Christian Discipleship:
- Discipleship is the continuing work of transformation in the life of a believer to become like Jesus in thought, character, attitude, purpose and action as he deepens his intimacy with Him (Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:13-15; Phil. 2:5, 1 Jn. 2:6).
- Discipleship deals with every aspect of life. (Phil.1:27, Col. 3:23, Eph. 5:1).
- Discipleship is about moving forward and steady growth in the life of a believer. (Jn. 15:4-5).
- Discipleship is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. (Phil. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4: 7-8, 2 Cor. 5:17).
- Discipleship always produces and leads to ministry to others. (1 Pet. 4:10, Jn. 13:1-17).
- Discipleship was intended to be reproduced. (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:2).
- Discipleship is crucial in the life of the local church. (Acts 2:42-47, Heb. 10:24-25).
These foundational elements give us an incredible launching pad but also serve as a great measuring stick for the effectiveness of discipleship in our student ministries. I spent six years as a Minister to middle school students in my first ten years of ministry. Middle school students are incredible, awesome, moldable, and awkward. However, because they are moldable, we must be willing to partner with parents in the discipleship of their middle school students. This might involve equipping parents to do it or in the absence of parents, a student ministry volunteer might take on that role. Discipleship in middle school ministry has three common looks, the traditional discipleship class, small group discipleship, and one on one discipleship. No matter what form of discipleship you participate in, there are three important things that teach you how to disciple a middle school student:
- Time. Be intentional with your time with them, give them your full attention, and make it worth something. Time to a middle school student will earn you the right to speak into their life. Even though conversation may be difficult, the time you spend with a middle school student will have an incredible impact.
- Questions. If you are effectively discipling middle school students, you have to carry the load in the conversations. Middle school students are not conversationalists. They cannot and will not carry a conversation. Make sure your questions are open ended and that you have enough questions to move the student where they need to be.
- Challenge. Middle school students want to be challenged and expect to be challenged. It is through those challenges that their faith starts to become their own. Too many times we save our challenges for high school students, but middle school students are fearless, bold, and want to change their world.
- Middle school students are awesome. They want to actively live out their faith. We must be willing to take the steps to disciple them to be like Jesus and make His name known. As we conclude here are four other things to remember when you disciple a middle school student:
- Every Student is Different. What you do for discipleship for one student most likely won’t work for the next student. Take time to get to know your students.
- Flexibility and Patience. You have to work their schedules and their parent’s schedules. When you disciple a middle school student, some weeks will be incredible, others train wrecks.
- Consistency. You need to be consistent in meeting with middle school students. A lack of consistency not only can be a hindrance to the student’s spiritual growth but it also can set a bad example of what discipleship looks like.
May we continue to see middle school students become disciples of Jesus Christ who make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jeff DeGiacomo is the Student Pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK. His desire and hope is to see students come to know and love Jesus with their heart, soul, and mind while living in complete obedience as they love others through prayer, service, and making disciples.