I love the following verse because it’s so impeccably straightforward and clear:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Nine words: a principle and a visual illustration. Ridiculous!

If the verse said, “As iron sharpens nickel, so one person sharpens a different person,” that would be a little more confusing. You’d have to figure out which person represents which element of the Earth’s outer core.

But it doesn’t say that. Instead, it emphasizes the value of having two like-minded people spurring each other on. With that being said, I cannot overstress the importance of having friends who are in the same field. People who:

  • Love students.
  • Want to engage teenagers with clear, effective, creative, and authentic programming.
  • Want to do God-honoring student ministry.
  • Don’t want to quit.

I think you need some iron in your professional life.

Right now, I can think of 4-5 student pastors around the country who are doing a great job of this. Not because they have so many people in their network, but because they’re doing such amazing things with their small network. They lean in to people in the same field. They connect instead of compete.

In addition to idea-sharing, brainstorming and encouragement, here are a few other perks:

  • Events. In the last couple months, I’ve seen two situations where multiple student ministries have united to go to an event. One was for a ski retreat, and the other was joint registration for summer camp. The benefit for students: more people to get a crush on. The benefit for student pastors—budget reductions. Think about it:

Split cost on travel = A happier budget

This past winter I spoke at a retreat that was birthed out of a network. Two of the student pastors went to college together. Three or four smaller churches in the area joined the party. The alignment was impressive. 

  • Contacts. We all know it’s way easier to pull off basically anything when you have the right people. I’ve had conversations that have gone like this:

 “Hey, I want to open Sunday night with a rap song, but I don’t know anyone who’s great at that.”

“Bro, I know the perfect guy (or girl). I’ll send you a YouTube link and their cell phone number. They would love the opportunity to perform at more places and get their name out.”

So what’s your one step? Reach out to another student pastor. 

If you already have student pastor friends in your network, reach out to one more. Go ahead and block out some iron time. Maybe for you it’s 9:00 A.M. every other Thursday at Dunkin Donuts. Go ahead and get it on the calendar.

In the end, it’s nice to not work on an island. It’s vital for you to know people who do what you do. But not just as passing acquaintances, as friends. It keeps you energized.

You don’t have to have a huge network. But you need a close one.

Ben Crawshaw is a youth ministry thought leader, and a DYM resource author.