Student Ministry, simply by its nature, is a ministry of trends. Not that we voraciously pursue these trends; however, we reach to a demographic that is constantly in flux…constantly evolving, constantly changing. And so we change. Probably more than we’d like to, if we were honest with ourselves. I’ve learned in my short 9 years in student ministry that every 2 years or so I must reinvent myself. Not my core values or beliefs, but certainly my approach, and at times, even my vernacular.
On the subject of diction…isn’t it funny how things evolve over time? It used to be we were all “Youth” Pastors. Now we’re “Student Pastors.” Well, at least most of us are.
When I took over the Student Ministry at my church, it was literally the result of a hallway conversation my pastor’s wife and I had before a staff meeting. The meeting started in 5 minutes, so there was really no time to discuss, well, much of anything. So the issue of my title never came up. I wandered through the next year trying to figure out what to call myself.
There’s the age-old term, Youth Pastor…but really, what does that mean? How do you define Youth? So I looked it up in the UPCI Manual. It was interesting to learn that “Youth” meant 12-36. Really? I’M not even 36. Yeah, Youth Pastor wasn’t going to work.
What about Student Pastor? That’s the buzz word lately. But you’ve probably discovered that, in some capacity, your youth group doesn’t stop at 18. There are 21 and 22 year-olds as well, who may or may not be in school. Student Pastor? What if they aren’t students? Back to the drawing board.
I asked my Pastor his thoughts. His reply was that our youth have one “Pastor,” and it isn’t me. Thank God! Somewhat relieved, but still uncertain, I kept searching.
I looked in the UPCI Manual again. It defined the youth leader title as “Young People’s President.” President? No, I’m good. Moving right along…
I checked to see what my title was on the FL District Youth Team. No consensus around that either. I’ve heard Youth President (there’s that “P” word again), and Youth Director. Director? I’m not orchestating a department…I’m leading a ministry.
So my Pastor and I were at a conference. He was introducing me to another minister. Aha! At last! Surely my title would be revealed. As he spoke with the other minister, he stated “This is Mike…he’s our Youth Guy.”
Youth Guy? Is that really a title? Probably not. But at the end of the day, Youth Ablaz doesn’t need someone with a fancy title. They need someone who is willing to dedicate his life to investing in them, installing principles they can live by, and preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow’s church. In that context…Youth Guy isn’t so bad.
So I’m the Youth Guy…and I’m okay with that.