Successful student ministries share a lot in common. Despite their different sizes, locations, or even demographic makeup, growing and vibrant student ministries will often have more in common than differences. One staple practice that every healthy and successful student ministry has is their ability to root everything they do in Scripture. Rooting everything in Scripture is paramount to a healthy and successful ministry. While much more could be said, here are two specific areas in student ministry where Scripture is foundationally important.
Root your discipleship in Scripture, not programs.
Paul makes it quite clear to Timothy that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Notice that Paul doesn’t say “All church programs…” or “Certain programs…” are capable of equipping someone for a life that is God-honoring. No, he attributes that equipping power to Scripture alone.
Now, of course that doesn’t mean that programs don’t have their place. Surely they do. The emphasis, however, is to see that healthy ministries are those that strategically put in place programs that serve as capable means of delivering the truth of Scripture to their students. They want their students to walk away each week like the Emmaus disciples who, after having heard from Jesus the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures, end up saying, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) Only the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with the Word of God, is capable of stirring the heart like that—not man made programs. However, may the Holy Spirit use the programs we have to communicate the truth of the gospel to our students so as to stir their hearts with affection for Him.
Root your church in Scripture, not personalities.
Personalities are created by God and are something to be celebrated. However, we also know that too often church cultures can become so dependent upon certain personalities—that of a student pastor, senior leaders, etc.—that the group suffers when that person(s) are no longer around. The energy and enthusiasm of those cultures seems to instantly deplete when those leading personalities are no longer front and center.
The diversity of personalities in your student ministry is something to be celebrated. Not only that, but it is also really praiseworthy how the diversity of God-given personalities are able to collectively contribute to the culture of your group. But as we are looking to root all things in Scripture, we should seek to foster student cultures that display more encouragement in Christ and love for one another than dominant personalities. Cultures that marked more by unity, humility, and selflessness (Phil 2:1-4), as opposed to individualism and competing egos.
As student pastors/leaders who are in the ministry of shepherding the hearts of students, it is important that we continually ask the self-reflecting question of how we are rooting the things we do in Scripture. And not answering in some trivial way as if we are just throwing a Bible verse onto whatever it is we are doing. But to be honest, truly wanting to know how we can more effectively help students hide this Word in their hearts, knowing that it is only this Word that equips our students for every good work!
This post was written by Andy McLean,Editor and Brand Owner of The Gospel Project for Students. You can follow Andy on Twitter here – @AndyMcLean14