I’ve heard many seasoned pastors tell funny stories of how something completely blew up in their face while leading a student ministry. Funny now, but definitely not humorous at the moment. The funny stories are normally things like vehicle problems on a camp trip, fights on the basketball court, or students sneaking out of their rooms at night at the retreat. They’re funny because these things seem to be unavoidable. Here are a couple dangers that can and should be avoided in student ministry.
Cool Guy Student Pastor
Different temperaments and personalities come with different struggles. One thing that seems to be common in a certain type of student pastor is a struggle with the desire to be liked. While desiring to have street cred with students in order to communicate truth is not sinful, a desire to be cool so Jesus can appear cool, is. The beauties of Scripture and a Savior that has pursued us are indeed miraculous. A real temptation is to add to this Gospel a spin that plays a trendy card. The truth is God’s Word is countercultural. Jesus even said in John 15:18 that if the world hates you, remember it also hated Him. Never forsake truth for likes because if you win them with anything other than Jesus, you’re going to lose them.
Sprinkles of the Gospel
Healthy ministries have a desire to reach the lost. Though, I have come across some that will use this term, “We want to give sprinkles of the Gospel.” In context, I understand that tact to give small truths week after week that build to a fuller understanding since these unchurched students may have never heard any of this before. While approach to certain culture is important, no brakes should be pumped on the Gospel! There is a common quote, “The plan of salvation is so simple a child can understand it.” No, that isn’t a quote from Scripture, but it is taken from the themes displayed in Scripture. Faith starts with Christ, so never hold back in the presentation of Jesus.
I’ll admit, this is one of my biggest pet peeves! Pretty much all student ministries of old use to use the bribe tactic for students to invite their friends to youth group: “The student that brings the most friends to youth group gets a free t-shirt… free back pack… free spot at camp, ect.” The practice a student pastor communicates must always have a Christ-centered vision. The vision being cast in a practice like this is a student must invite to get something for themselves, not give something to others. When no real vision is given, nothing is learned. Or worse, bad practice is transferred to those you are trying to disciple. How terrible does a student feel when they learn the only reason they were invited to youth group was for the inviter to receive some prize.
Sinning with Students
Hopefully it’s common knowledge not to follow or lead your students into sinful behavior. The real bad stuff comes to mind like drinking, smoking, inappropriate relationships, etc. I’m speaking more about the things that some try not to think are sinful. As a student pastor, you have to evaluate your life even in small areas of disobedience that cast a bad vision for those onlooking. Do you speed on your camp trip? Do you not wear your seatbelt when picking students up for youth group? Do you order a water cup at a meal with your students and fill it with Dr. Pepper? What message does that send to those trying to weigh out what faithfulness looks like in their own lives? Unchecked, small areas of disobedience will almost always lead to larger areas of pride.
What are some bad practices you have seen or even performed yourself? Interact in the comments below!
This post was written by Robb Hollifield. Robb serves as the senior high student pastor at Cross Creek Church in Fountain, CO. In addition to his role at Cross Creek, Robb serves weekly in a local skateboard ministry called P.R.O.C.E.S.S. in Colorado Springs.