The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry
I have always been fascinated by trains. As a kid (and if I’m honest still as an adult) I loved those giant model train sets that take up an entire room with full landscaping, buildings, and multiple trains. I’ve been able to ride trains of different kinds from steam driven trains in the mountains, to Amtrak passenger trains, to the train from Paris to London through the chunnel. It doesn’t take a genius to know that regardless of the power and speed potential of the train, without the track it won’t go anywhere.
Your wise discipleship plan is that track. Ministry potential and hype won’t amount to anything unless there is a clear discipleship path for your ministry that begins with seeing students come to know Jesus.
If your wise discipleship plan is the track, then your volunteer leaders are the engine of the train. The most powerful engine won’t go anywhere without a track, and the best track in the world is worthless without an engine to run on it. This is why your discipleship plan, and the leaders you train to help you execute it, are the most important parts of your student ministry. This combination is also something that seems to be missing in many student ministries. For some, they have the best trained volunteers without a clear strategic direction, while others know where they’re going but lack the volunteer base needed to get there.
You can’t lead the ministry where it needs to go on your own, and trying to do so isn’t leading according to the biblical mandate for ministry leadership found in Ephesians 4:12 (train the saints for the work of the ministry). The more leaders you have, and the better they are trained, the more powerful your ministry engine will be. Here are some facts to remember about volunteer leaders in your ministry:
- Leaders need to be recruited throughout the year. This isn’t an activity you do just leading up to the fall.
- Leaders need to hear your vision frequently. They need to see the tracks you have laid down, and that you are committed to that track. When you are, they will be too.
- Leaders need to see how the student ministry vision connects with the overall vision of the church. You aren’t a rogue ministry out there doing your own thing. Your ministry needs to help students connect with the overall vision of the church, and you need to think of your role in student ministry as playing one part to help the pastor accomplish what God has called him to do with the entire Body.
- Leaders need to be frequently trained. As is the case with any engine, frequent maintenance increases the effectiveness. Don’t just wing it for these meetings. Make them valuable for your leaders and connect the training to the vision.
- Leaders need clarity in their role. Be specific here and always connect it to the overall discipleship plan for the ministry. For example, “By you fulfilling this role, we are able to accomplish X as a part of the student ministry vision.”
- Leaders will expand your ministry’s ability to reach and disciple more students. More leaders means more relationships. More relationships will increase the likelihood that God’s word can be delivered to the heart of a teenager at exactly the right time they need it, to see the greatest opportunity for life transformation. You simply cannot know the details of every student’s life to be able to do this on your own.
- Leaders will become the student ministry cheerleaders. When you recruit, train, and help them believe in the student ministry vision, they will spread a positive attitude about the ministry throughout the rest of the church. They will tell your pastor and their peers about what God is doing and they will defend the ministry (if needed) to those who may question.
A clearly developed discipleship path and a group of well-trained volunteer leaders is a combination that leads to effective student ministry. There are many things in student ministry that we can sink time into, but these two far outweigh everything else that’s on your plate.
Join me again next week as we take a look at the role that events play as part of a wise discipleship plan.