I would say there is a good chance that, as a student pastor, you aren’t spending your day staring at walls lined with endless mathematical equations, hunched over a series of beakers and tubes, or engineering a new landing gear deployment system. It’s a good thing too because you aren’t called to rocket science, and student ministry is NOT rocket science!
Lets all acknowledge that student ministry is by no means an easy undertaking. Pastoral ministry at any level is a non-stop job that can wear on the best of us and there is no question that exceptional ministries, like any successful endeavour, require a great deal of work and a steadfast dedication that can be overwhelming at times. This, however, is no reason to be swallowed up in the theory and practice of ministry, because at the root of it all there are a few basic elements of ministry to keep in mind at all times. For today, we are going to focus on relationships.
The relationship category is one that must not be neglected! After all, how can you pastor a flock that you’ve never met? The difficult piece of relational ministry comes when your flock begins to outgrow the amount of time that you have to dedicate to them. As your ministry grows, so must your influence. But as you will never be able to split yourself and be in multiple places at once, you have to train others to step in where you can’t.
This to me is where relational ministry gets really fun! There is a mind shift that needs to happen if you ever expect to grow and reach more people tomorrow than you are today. Instead of spending all of your relational effort on students, you are going to need to become more strategic with your time. Just like Moses was advised by Jethro to raise up leaders to minister to the people in 100’s, 50’s, and 10’s, you are going to need to raise leaders to do the same in your ministry. In the beginning you may only need 10 leaders who can all reach 10 students, but as you grow, and the ranks of your leaders grow, you will eventually need leaders to lead the leaders! Wow, I know this can sound overwhelming in itself, but the key here is efficiency. Instead of you trying to personally invest in the lives of all of your students, there will come a time that you will need to invest personally in the lives of 10 adults, that will then invest personally in the lives of 10-15 students each! In doing this, not only are your students well loved and ministered to, but also, the adults that you are developing are growing in their maturity, leadership, and service!
Many student pastors struggle with this because there can be a sense of guilt that comes with a misperception of what you are doing. You are not detaching from your students when you do this, you are realizing your limitations, and equipping others to meet the needs of the students that you are shepherding. In fact, one of the key realizations that you must come to is that it is healthier for you to spend time discipling a small group than to split your time amongst all of your kids. In the same way that you develop leaders to reach students, by dedicating weekly time with student leaders, you can develop and mobilize students to reach their peers! And when you have created a culture of student leaders who are actively leading and reaching their friends for Jesus, you will have set yourself up for some great victories.
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist