Everyone is busy. I know. It’s easy to get caught up in the hurriedness of life. I know. So, how does one who has a job, a family, and works with students manage to accomplish their various responsibilities successfully? Great question, and one in which many other student ministers and youth workers have often asked. Here are a few tips to help you along that journey!
1. Keep the main thing the main thing. You are not reaching your full potential to any of your responsibilities if you allow your own spiritual life to suffer. Make sure that you are spending time with the Lord in His Word daily. Your quiet time with the Lord is similar to your underwear: if you don’t change it daily to save time, no one notices at first, but eventually the stench becomes unbearable.
2. Remember your family. Just like your personal spiritual life is the first to suffer, your family is often the second, and just like I hope you change underwear daily, I hope you shower daily as well. It is needed. So is time with your family! It is easy to become so caught up in your responsibilities at work or church that you neglect your family. Admittedly, this is hard for me. I see so much that needs to be done that it is often hard for me to unplug and disconnect and just be a husband and a father. Then I am reminded that just like the students I am called to serve need Jesus, they also need to see men who are living out their roles as a husband and dad. Furthermore, my family needs me as well.
Set aside at least one night per week with which neither work nor church can interfere. When eating dinner with your family, leave your phone alone (again, this is hard for me).
One final word regarding your family: there has been a move of late that encourages the abandoning of ministry responsibilities in order to spend more time with the family. While the root of this notion is good: to protect, develop, and grow the family, the outcome is often negative in that it leads to a form of child-worship or family-worship. NEVER does the Lord want us to neglect our families, but the same can be true about the ministries to which He has called us.
3. Make a phone call. Mobile phones have made the ability to stay in contact with others easier than ever. With that in mind, if you serve as an adult leader, make a phone call to your students weekly. I know that it can take an hour or so to call all of the students on your class roll, but I also know that the results can be amazing. In a world where snapchats and text messages rule, the phone call has garnered much more power and effectiveness than ever.
4. Know your role. Easy. That doesn’t mean what you think. Know that you are NOT a volunteer. Volunteers see themselves as doing someone else a favor. You are called to serve in the capacity in which you do. Those who are called are held accountable to the One who has called them. As one who is called, there is a responsibility to steward well the ministry entrusted to you.
5. Plan special days in your class. There is something about a special day within your class that generates momentum among students. Whether it is a theme day, a friend day, an apple pie day, or any other day that works in your context, special days will generate momentum, and momentum is your friend when working with students.
6. Follow-up with guests and absentees. BREAKING: There is nothing complex about this post. Gasp! It is too easy for students to fall through the cracks of a student ministry unless we all do EXCELLENT follow-up with guests and absentees. Call them, send a text, write a card, send a smoke signal…something! Guests need to know that they are not just another of the many to come through a ministry, and regular attenders need to know that they are also special.
7. Have fun and invest in your students! We are constantly telling our students to enjoy this season of life. We say things like: “You’ll never be here again.” Our students want and NEED to have fun. I realize that not all of life is fun, but our students need to be reminded that following the Lord IS an adventure. Have fun. For some of us, this is a difficult idea because we are SO passionate about conveying the truth of Scripture to our students. I admire that passion, but let’s be honest: passion for knowledge transfer without capturing the heart of your students leaves both you and your students frustrated. Have some fun and watch how your students connect with you AND how some will even adopt your passion for the Scriptures as well. Remember, discipleship is more caught than taught.
You are VITAL to the work of student ministry, but let’s remember that is exactly that: work! It doesn’t take much reading to know that students today are under attack by media, peers, educators, and other worldviews. The task is not easy, but it IS rewarding. So, roll up your sleeves with me, and let’s get after it in reaching this generation with the Gospel. They have no other hope.