As I reflect on twenty years of student ministry, several principles that have helped me maintain a healthy ministry rise to the surface.
But first... know that these principles emerge from an ongoing, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is foundational and critical to seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom constantly through prayer, studying the Word, and seeking wise counsel.
Three principles for effective leadership in Student Ministry:
Principle #1: Do not say “My students” or “My ministry”
Removing the 1st person pronoun when talking about students and ministry is a constant reminder that you are not serving the body of believers on your own. You are surrounded by an amazing volunteer staff, committed parents, and supportive staff members. Furthermore, the students belong first and foremost to our Lord…not you. The “my student” attitude perpetuates a destructive messiah-attitude through the veiled allusion that the ministry is dependent on you. Not good and not true.
Principle #2: Be the last one out of the room, building, van, etc
Being a servant leader includes turning off the lights, picking up dropped trash, pushing in chairs, and returning the stapler to the copy room…even though others were asked to do so. Leaving chaos in your wake will frustrate those who support you (custodians, building manager, and admin support). For the next event, though, allow more time for clean-up and better assign the roles. You’ll have less to pick-up afterward and everyone is happy to help out. Regardless, always be the one to close the door.
Principle #3: Work two weeks out
Have everything ready for meetings, activities and retreats at least two weeks before the actual event. All of it: finalizing the agenda, securing leaders, making copies of handouts, completing the powerpoint, and gathering forms. When it’s done two weeks ahead of time, then running out of ink in the printer or needing an additional driver will not morph into a crisis due to an overcrowded to-do list! Furthermore, when there is a family crisis in your own life or someone in the ministry, you can take care of them (and you) while not stressing about an upcoming ministry event.
There are, of course, the valuable lessons I learned in kindergarten also: share, be kind, respect one another, don’t talk about each other, don’t hit, check your work, say please & thank you, clean-up after yourself, and follow directions. But weaving the above three principles into the daily grind will yield a long and healthy ministry.
One final note on the personal side: Family first. Amidst the abundant needs that exist among students and families, recognize the needs of your own family. Be a good spouse, son/daughter, dad/mom. Evening and weekend ministry events along with summer projects can quickly fill calendars. Diligently protect this balance.
What principles or maxims help guide your ministry?