One is definitely the loneliest number especially when you are talking about Student Ministry. The one unequivocal truth is that part-time student pastors CAN NOT do it by themselves; so, stop trying. As we look at the second installment of this series on surviving Bi-vocational student ministry, this is probably one of the biggest mistakes we make as part-time “youth guys.” You see we are trying to do what the full-time guys don’t even try. EVERY successful student ministry has a team of people who volunteer their time to make the ministry work. I have been on the end where I was teaching Sunday school, bible study on Sunday nights, and bible study on Wednesday nights. You add in all the events that everyone expects you to do AND your other full-time job and you get one very burned out student pastor. Here are some tips on how to avoid this problem:
FIRST: Find people who are willing to help- even in the smallest capacity and GIVE SOMETHING UP. One of the most freeing things I ever did as a Student Pastor was giving up teaching Sunday School. Now, if that is your only bible study for the week, by all means teach it. However, I was teaching 3 times per week. It was exhausting- especially since I teach high school all week long. Finding someone to take one of your meeting times will do wonders for you & your group. My good friend and Super Student Pastor, Jarred Morgan (seriously- I think the man has an S emblazoned on his chest, he is that good, but I digress), he wrote a blog this last year to help student pastors and he was quite frank when he said that most of our students come because of us- at least at first. We would like to think that Jesus is the driving force behind them coming, but honestly, most students come because you care about them. This does not mean you have to be in front of them every second you are with them. Other perspectives from people who also care is very important. This frees you up to counsel those students who need you or disciple those who are new to the faith. Trust me, you are still doing your job and you are not cheating the students. In fact, by not teaching all the time, you are doing your job more so by being available to love on and care for your students when they need you. After all, that is why they come and that is why you put the time in.
SECOND: Sometimes the answer is “NO“, especially if you do not have the people in your congregation willing to help out and teach. Let me reiterate, YOU CAN NOT DO THIS ALONE!!! If I was in the same situation now that I was in when I started, I would give up one of the services. Now, I know what you are thinking, but believe it or not, no one is going to condemn you to Hell for this- in fact, you’d be surprised how many volunteers tend to pop up when this is a possibility. Truth is, if you are doing your job well, most congregations and yes, even your Pastor will forget that you are only part-time. I have had countless conversations with my pastor where I have to look at him say, “You do remember that I am only part time and I’m not in the office everyday right?” And there are members of my congregation who still think that the student ministry is my only job (I have a great story about one of our elderly members calling me in the middle of one of my class lecture on the Byzantines to give them a ride to the store- but that’s for a later date). None of it is intentional- in fact, if you are getting that, it probably means you are doing your job very well. Without help, however, you must say no or other parts of your life will begin to suffer (more on that in a later post in the series). Saying NO is one of the healthiest things you can do for your ministry as we will see in a later installment. Remember this simple guideline- the more help you have, the more you can say YES.
LASTLY: Delegate and let them run with it. No one likes helping a micro-manager. I know how protective of our ministries we can get. For the longest time, I had the approach that since I have to answer for everything that happens, I must control everything. The object is to get volunteers to help, not drive them off. I had to learn this thanks to my wife, who explained to me that she was not going to help me anymore if I didn’t stop micro-managing. To give you an idea of what that meant to me- my student ministry DOES NOT OPERATE without her. If I am the motor, she is the anchor that steadies everything that happens in my ministry- me, the students, I mean everything (ask my students- they will say the same thing). I understand you want the best for your students, and by all means, don’t accept just anyone’s help. It is your job to make sure that the people who stand before your students are biblically & theologically sound. However, if you trust them to be in front of your students, teaching, then trust them to do just that. Leave them alone with them, go plan, listen to their ideas, several brains are better than just one. In my case, I have 3 remarkable Sunday School teachers (HS boys, HS girls, and Middle School). They take them to do things without me. All I ask is that they let me know they are doing something so I can answer questions if asked about it and so that I don’t schedule anything over them. In the end, your students are better off because now they have several people pouring into them and they don’t have a grumpy, overworked student pastor who runs around too busy to be with them because of all the “stuff” they have to do.
In the end- it’s not about competing with the other student ministries to keep up. It is about pouring into the lives of the students that pulled you into ministry in the first place. Don’t do them a disservice by trying to “keep up.” Love them, that is all they are asking for and find the people to help you make that happen. After all, you can’t do it alone.
**A SPECIAL NOTE TO CHURCH MEMBERS WHO HAVE PART-TIME STUDENT PASTORS** Please seek God’s will for your life in terms of the student ministry in your church. These pastors are trying to meet a very important need and they can not do it alone. Seek how God would use you to help these special people who have effectively taken on another full time job simply because they care about the lives of their teenagers.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
**Please check out my good friend Jarred Morgan’s blog (which is far superior to mine) at http://jarredamorgan.com/