Healthy student ministries are Kingdom expanding.
When I refer to “Kingdom” here, I am referring to God’s Kingdom of people who have placed their faith in him. Others have called it the universal church. In its most basic definition it simply means all believers everywhere. To expand God’s Kingdom then means that your student ministry will be involved in adding people to God’s Kingdom.
Throughout history this process has been closely linked to evangelism. In the Bible, evangelism is presented in terms of giftedness (Eph. 4:11) and as an instruction for all believers (Matt. 28:19). It’s important to note that while God gifts some people more than others in this area, not having this giftedness doesn’t remove us from the responsibility of being evangelistic in both our personal lives and as leaders of student ministry.
Thinking evangelistically, in its simplest form, means that you as a student ministry leader will find a way to connect students to the gospel in everything you do. As an evangelistically thinking leader, you will constantly ask the following question: “How does this connect students to the gospel?”
I want to challenge you to be Kingdom-expanding in your leadership in these three ways:
1. Train and trust your volunteer leaders.
Your leaders are only as good as your recruiting and training! The way you recruit your leaders and onboard them is a crucial first step to being able to trust them to lead on their own. If you haven’t already, I want to encourage you to evaluate your own recruiting and training process for volunteers. Because here’s the thing—having excellent volunteers you can trust to lead has Kingdom expanding returns two key ways.
The first is this: having trained and trusted leaders allows you to be hands-off of the details and expands your ability to disciple students. This allows you to invest in your main role as pastor
The second: having trained and trusted leaders allows your students to engage in Kingdom expanding outreach and evangelism because those leaders can connect students with their personal interest areas and opportunities. If leader Joe is plugged in with homeless ministry in your area and maintains relationships there and leader Sally is plugged in with crisis pregnancy ministry in your area and maintains those relationships, you’ve already doubled the connections your ministry can have in the community!
And remember as you train your volunteer teams—train them to also think evangelistically. As you constantly ask “How does this connect students to the gospel?” so should your volunteers. There are many things you can (and should) delegate as a leader, but driving a heart for Kingdom expansion deeply within your team is not one of them.
2. Train and trust your student leaders.
You may be hesitant to dive into this at first, but I want to encourage you to be Kingdom expanding in your leadership through training and trusting your student leaders. If you don’t already have one, forming a student leadership team is a great place to start with this.
As you disciple students to be lifelong sharers of the gospel, giving them opportunities lead out will equip them for life beyond student ministry. Here’s my warning/encouragement for this: your student leaders may not do things exactly like you, they may need encouragement to finish, and may even fail at times. All of those things are okay because you are giving them opportunities to lead and influence that will make them more effective next time around. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be more Kingdom expanding by unleashing your students to reach more students.
“One of the ways to begin effectively reaching students again in our nation is to train an army of students to reach their friends, their neighborhoods, and their school campuses. It will not happen through a more creative event than you did last year, or through the sixteen hours you spent preparing your sermon this week.”
When students are given leadership opportunities and learn to influence inside the church, it gives them the confidence to do those things outside of the church where they can become a Kingdom expanding influence wherever they go.
Students need to be taught how to use their talents and abilities as a platform or the gospel. They need to have their eyes opened to the truth that their teams, squads, homes, and clubs are their closest and most accessible mission fields.
3. Partner with existing ministries.
You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” and this is true for Kingdom expanding outreach opportunities, as well. As you plan projects and missions efforts for your students, partner with ministries and organizations already doing the work you hope to accomplish. Be Kingdom expanding in your leadership by partnering with existing ministries; help multiply their reach by investing your efforts there instead of trying to create your own thing.
These kinds of partnerships also keep you out of the weeds and inside of your main responsibilities as a pastor.
A heart for Kingdom expansion
I want to leave you with one more piece of encouragement, and it’s important. For a student ministry to be Kingdom expanding, it must be in the heart of the leader. If seeing people come to know Christ isn’t one of the greatest joys of your life personally, then it will never be one of the greatest joys of your ministry as a whole.
A ministry becomes a Kingdom expanding ministry when students become Kingdom expanding students. In order for that to happen, your students need to see that your life, the lives of your staff team, and the lives of your volunteer team are about making disciples in the strength and power of Christ (Col. 1:11).
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students and was a partial adaptation from his book, Student Ministry That Matters. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.