As I settle into my new position as Student Ministries Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church one of the priorities I am working through is determining the purpose of Student Ministry. Specifically, why do we do Student Ministry at GFC? Part of answering that question is asking another question…one that I believe actually needs to be answered first. That is, what role does our Youth Ministry play in the spiritual development of teenagers. As my boss and I have an ongoing dialogue through this process we have come up with 3 legitimate answers to this question. Let me know if you agree with what we’ve come up with or if there’s something else that should be considered.
DISCLAIMER – it is not the assumption in any of these models that the role of the church or Youth Ministry trumps the role of the parents as the primary discipler of their kids. This question is being explored purely at a church ministry level.
QUESTION: What role does Youth Ministry play in the spiritual development of teenagers?
OPTION #1 – It is the SOLE SOURCE of their spiritual development.
In this particular model, a church’s Youth Ministry / Student Ministry is the only place where teens are spiritually developed. This means that teenagers do not attend a churchwide or adult worship service on a regular basis. There is probably a student worship service in which the Youth Leader gives the message. There is probably other midweek and monthly activities for students to be involved in like small groups or campus groups. Whatever the particulars are, the Student Ministry is solely responsible for the spiritual development of the teens.
OPTION #2 – It is the PRIMARY SOURCE of their spiritual development.
When Student Ministry is the Primary Source of a teens spiritual development it means the majority of the responsibility falls to the Student Ministry, however it does not have exclusive authority over the students. In this model you will probably find students attending the church-wide worship service, and if they have an exclusive student worship service they are probably being taught the same biblical truths or maybe they are even going through a teenager version of the same sermon series the adults are going through. The mission/vision/values of the Student Ministry is probably the exact same as that of the church as a whole. This particular model may not sound to different from the first option, however it frames Student Ministry as part of the larger picture of the church verses a silo ministry doing it’s own thing.
OPTION #3 – It is the SECONDARY SOURCE of their spiritual development.
Now the role of the Youth Ministry in the spiritual development of teens is supplemental to the church as a whole. Undoubtedly you will find students involved in the larger worship experience of the church. There may or may not be any Student Ministry specific activities and programming. If you do find them, they are directly related to what the church is doing. You probably won’t find much content that is not a reflection of the teaching that the overall church is going through. In a very practical sense, you might not even find a full time Youth Leader.
So, what role does your Youth Ministry / Student Ministry play in the spiritual development of teenagers in your church? Do you feel like I’ve given adequate options to answer this question with and have I come up with accurate definitions for each option? What have I missed?
I am very much in the discovery mode as I seek to answer this question for my own setting. I value your insights and feedback as I evaluate our Student Ministry and define what our purpose is. Thanks for joining the conversation!