Post written by John Keim
With every passing year, it seems that students and leaders are getting busier and busier. Now I realize that this is not news to any of us who have worked with students for more than a week and that there are all sorts of ideas, opinions and suggestions on the pace that our culture is living at and the impact it’s having on teenagers today. Rather than attempting to tackle the massive culture shaping question of how it is we can change that, what if we reframe how it is we lead our ministries in light of this cultural reality. What if rather than lowering the bar for students and leaders to engage we lowered the barriers that prevent them from engaging?
Here’s a couple practical ways I’ve seen this play out that may help you;
Mission Trips—I believe one of the most important parts of our mission trips is the team meetings to prepare for the trip and grow as a team in the months leading up to the trips but that also happens to be one of the most difficult things with students’ schedules. School commitments, part-time jobs, athletic schedules and family obligations can prevent a student from being a part of essential team meetings. So, do you say “No” to a student who’s next step is to go on a trip OR make team meetings non-mandatory which means a constant state of catch-up and a lack of team unity.
- To lower this barrier, we streamlined all of our team training to keep what’s truly essential. We boiled things down to 4 mandatory team meetings over a 5-month time span leading up to the trips-it’s a total time commitment of 13 hours.
- We also pay attention to school calendars and do our best to schedule those meetings around large school functions. We have all the meetings scheduled in January so as students are applying for trips they can mark all the dates down.
Student Leadership—Giving students the opportunity to lead in the ministry can be an incredible source of life and joy for both the student and your ministry but balancing expectations in a student’s schedule can be tricky!
- To increase student involvement in the ministry we actually separated volunteer roles from leadership roles. We give students easy access, lower expectation roles that they can volunteer in while using the gifts God has given them. Greeting team, hosting a game on stage, running tech and participating in the band are all ways students can volunteer.
- Then when a student is ready for a step into leadership we have a student leadership boot camp available each fall that takes them through leadership development utilizing some of the great resources from LeaderTreks.
Adult Volunteers—The lifeblood of any student ministry is the amazing group of adult volunteers that invest their time and talent in the lives of students. Just like students though their schedules can be hectic and the expectations of leading may be difficult for some.
- We’ve had to take a look at the various roles that adult volunteers serve in and rather than a one-size-fits all model we’ve created roles where volunteers can serve in a non-weekly format. There are adult volunteers worth getting when you can and while this does not replace a regular, weekly leader connecting with students it can add some fuel and firepower for a big event or retreat weekend.
- In our monthly leader meetings, the goal in previous years was to build community, engage in training and communicate with our leaders so they’re in the loop. That was unrealistic in the timeframe we have so we chose to focus on community and communication which has been great for our volunteer team. Part of what made this possible is we’ve enrolled all of our leaders in DYMU so they’re able to get great training on their own time and at their own pace!
In a culture that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon, I really believe we can creatively lower the barriers for students and leaders to engage in life-changing, high impact ministry without lowering the bar of quality or experience!
John has been in full-time ministry for 13 years at Granger Community Church (GCC). As the Executive Pastor of Kids and Students he oversees the staff and ministries reaching kids, students and young adults. A unique part of John’s story is that he is leading in the church that he started attending as a 6th grade student and counts it a huge blessing to lead the student ministry that radically changed his life. Equally awesome for John is that he met his wife Angela during their time as students in youth group together at GCC and they are now raising their 3 daughters at GCC.