Planning for Success in Student Ministry (Inspire Notes)

I’ve been asked to pass along my notes from the Inspire Student Ministry conference call that was held this past Monday (10/29/12). Here you go!

I’ve found that when I have the opportunity to speak to other Student Pastors, what I’m often asked about my planning process. I’ll be addressing that. I’d like to start with this though, and this may not sound related at all, but stay with me; I promise it will make sense in the end.

The Apostolic church is under tremendous spiritual attack. Our doctrine is under attack. Our lifestyle is under attack. Even our ability to publicly express our faith is under attack. I contend, however, that the GREATEST attack of the enemy against the modern day Apostolic church, is an attack on our FAMILIES. He is after our marriages. He is after our children.

Are you aware that the majority of children born to ministers do not stay in church after graduating High School? Did you also realize that a recent survey found that over 70% of ministers stated their marriage is facing serious problems? You may not be a licensed preacher, but if you are on this call and you have dedicated your life to changing the next generation, you must take these statistics to heart.

The fact is Student Ministry is intense, and it can be overwhelming. We KNOW that to be successful in Student Ministry, it’s about more than showing up for Youth Service. We must:

    • Prepare messages, lessons and series
    • Promote what’s going on in the youth group
    • Plan fellowships
    • Schedule fundraisers
    • On top of that, if we really want to impact students, we MUST touch them in meaningful ways outside of a church setting
    • We go to their ball games
    • We take them shopping
    • We answer their phone calls at all hours of the night
    • We give them rides back and forth to church, simply to connect with them

If you’re doing all of those things, you are absolutely doing the right thing. We MUST do those things if we are to truly impact our students. But my question to you is this…where does that leave your family? If Youth Ministry is the most important thing to you, you are missing the mark.  I know that may be a dangerous thing to say on a Student Ministry conference call, but if your children and your marriage constantly take a back seat to the teenagers you are shepherding, your family will suffer. I’ve been in Student Ministry for 10 years, and that’s long enough to see this play out. If you aren’t careful, you’ll save your students, and lose your spouse and children.

Should we stop spending time with our students? No. Should we spend less time studying? Absolutely not. Should we settle for mediocre events and vanilla Youth Services? NO! We MUST strive for excellence in Student Ministry if we are to reach this generation, but we must find a way to do it without leaving our families behind. Our students NEED us to PRESENT and PURPOSEFUL, but our families do as well.

I’m bi-vocational, like most of you are. I work a secular job, an average of 50 hours a week. I also have a wife, two small children, and other church responsibilities outside of Student Ministry. I’m more than wiling to confess, I’ve struggled with this balance in the past, and still do sometimes. It feels like sometimes I have to make a choice. “Will I be a husband and dad this week, or will I be a Student Pastor? Because I don’t have time for both.”

The key, I’ve found, is that we must be intentional with our time. I think the reason that we have so much trouble keeping up at times is because we are REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE with our time.

There’s a verse that I felt the Lord drop in my spirit about this time a year ago. Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. The word “redeem” there means “to rescue from loss.” I have found the key is to find lost time in my day and rescue it…to be intentional about every moment of my day. Essentially, I made it my mission to find the hidden moments of my day that I was losing.

Here are some things that worked for me:

    1. I spend about 30 minutes every Sunday planning out my week. I start with the most important tasks, the ones that ABSOLUTELY MUST GET DONE that week. I spread them out evenly over the week so that I don’t overload any specific day, because I know unplanned things will come up (phone calls from students, a hospital visitation, the dishwasher quits working, etc.). If I find I still have room, I’ll go back and fill in other things that I could work ahead on to free up time down the road (prepping my next series, working on promo material for an event happening next month, etc.).
    2. In this planning, I set aside at least one evening that week that belongs to my family. When I get home, I put the laptop up, I set my phone down, and I get down on the floor and play with my girls. Maybe I take the family out to dinner, or we go to the park. I’ll answer emergency phone calls, but if it’s not an emergency, I’ll tell my students, “Hey, give me a call tomorrow, or let’s get together after church on Wednesday; I’m with my family right now.”
    3. I schedule a specific time every day to pray. I’ve found that daily prayer is my greatest tool to balancing ministry and family.
    4. I find little windows in my day where I can accomplish small, quick tasks. This keeps them from piling up until the end of the day and bleeding into my family time. If I bring my lunch, I’m normally done eating well before the hour is over. I will plan something to accomplish that day that I know I can easily get done in that time slot. Returning phone calls, working on service schedules, putting finishing touches on a flyer, etc.
    5. I’ve learned to draw the line between what is truly urgent and what can wait. As Student Pastors, because of the burden we have, sometimes we are so quick to jump on every opportunity to sow into the lives of our students. That’s GREAT! We MUST do that! But it’s okay to be intentional about it! You are NOT a bad Student Pastor if you say, “You know, Suzie, I’d love to talk about your bizarre theological question; can this wait until Wednesday/Friday/Sunday when we can sit down and I can give you my undivided attention?”
    6. Finally….and I’m one of the worst in the world about it, but I’m trying to get better…DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE. If you have a team, USE THEM! They did NOT sign up for this to be glorified chaperones! THEY have a desire to impact the lives of students, too!  You may think, “They won’t do it as well as me.” Maybe not, but if JESUS can trust MAN with HIS doctrine, certainly we can trust one our team members with a fundraising event. And if you’re patient with them and provide positive reinforcement, you’ll find that they may end up better at it than you are!

Hope that helped, I’m excited for all of you. I love and believe in every one of you. I’m more excited than ever before about the future of Apostolic Student Ministry. Thanks again to Noah Watt and Travis Worthington for the opportunity.

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