There are many ways to do student ministry. God has shaped you as a leader with specific passions, thoughts, and talents that are different from others. There are also contextual elements to how each of you do student ministry in your setting. You should do student ministry differently from others; there is no cookie-cutter model.
However, I believe there is one thing that all student pastors must do. In Ezekiel 33 we see a conversation between God and Ezekiel where God establishes Ezekiel as a “watchman” over His people. The watchman was a very common role in the lives of people in that day from a city defense perspective. The role of the watchman was to stand on the wall of a city, watch for danger, and blow a trumpet to warn the people of the city if an enemy army was approaching. For Ezekiel, as a watchman over God’s people, his role was to take the words that God gave him and speak them to the people. In Acts 18 and 20 we see that Paul uses similar language to this passage in Ezekiel and sees himself in a watchman kind of role in the New Testament.
So what is the one thing that all student pastors must do? What, in essence, is the role of a student pastor? It is to be a watchman. It is to sound the alarm to this generation of teenagers just as Ezekiel and Paul sounded the alarm to the people of their time. Here are some specific things that we need to sound the alarm about:
- Sound the alarm of God’s plan of salvation. Unashamedly proclaim the message of the gospel to your students. Draw a straight line to the cross in every message that you give. Remember the role of the watchman from Ezekiel. When the watchman saw an enemy army approaching they were to blow a trumpet. A trumpet is a piercing, loud, interrupting sound. It was meant to cut through all other noise in the city to get the attention of the people. When we preach the gospel it is meant to cut through all of the other noise in the life of a student. Proclaim in boldly and clearly. Be the trumpet blast in the life of a student.
- Sound the alarm of God’s grace. Students must understand God’s grace. They must understand that following Jesus isn’t about being a good little Christian boy or girl; that it isn’t about adhering to a list of do’s and don’ts. It isn’t about trying, but about dying (Galatians 2:20) and living in the power of Jesus. When students (and everyone else) place their faith in Him they are declared holy, righteous, faultless, blameless before God. Your students need to understand what it means to live in what God has already declared them to be, rather than trying to live a “good life” in an attempt to pay Jesus back for the sacrifice He made. There are no shortcut to this. The way they learn to live in grace is to spend time staring at Jesus through God’s word. Students will be transformed into the image that they stare at most. Make sure that they are starting at what matters — Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- Sound the alarm to call the next generation of watchman. Part of your role as a student pastor is to train and equip your students to be a watchman for their schools, neighborhoods, teams, clubs, and homes. This isn’t a role for students to step into one day when they are older, rather, it is one that students can fulfill right now. Give them opportunities to lead right now in your ministry. When students don’t have that opportunity while they’re in the student ministry, their leadership growth is greatly prohibited and they are less likely to lead as an adult. One reality of student ministry is that if students are equipped to be a watchman as a student, they are more likely to make an impact as a teenager and less likely to leave the church when they graduate.
There are many things that you can do as a student pastor, and many of them are valuable. There is one thing that you must do as a student pastor: be a watchman for the students that God has appointed to you to lead. Be the trumpet blast of the gospel in the lives of your students.
This blog post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry