Five Things I Could Have Done Better

Recently I’ve transitioned out of Student Ministry into another area of ministry. If you’ve ever gone through a transitioning process you know how challenging it can be. I have been involved in Student Ministry for the last 8 years, and God was gracious to give me many opportunities to serve in such a rewarding ministry. Although God enabled me to experience some effectiveness in Student Ministry, I’ve been reflecting lately on what I would have done differently if I could do it over again.

  1. Intentional Relationships
    It really all is about relationships – and most of us know that. But, knowing and doing are two different things – and it seems that I was always too busy to spend much time with students outside of our weekly programs. And, the larger the student body grew, the more difficult this became. I know of a pastor who mentors 10 men a year through a six months discipleship program. He put together an application process, group covenant, and lists of memory verses, required readings and tapes/CDs to listen to. He has mentored 10 men for the past 10 years…that’s 100 men he’s intentionally built relationships with – what a race!
  2. A Few Words
    I’ve been noticing lately that it seems like those who are leaving a legacy in ministry often have a phrase they are known by. For example – Bill Hybles often says, “the local church is the hope of the world.” John Maxwell frequently says, “Leadership is influence…nothing more, nothing less.” I used to go to a church where the Pastor always said, “God is good, all the time. And, all the time, God is good.” Pastor Jim Cymbala often simply declares, “God is Love.” It seems that these little phrases have the ability to stick – even to the minds of teenagers, long after we are gone. How cool would it be if your students always remembered you for saying __________________.”
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  4. More Training
    Towards the end of my career in student ministry, I began to realize that I really regretted that I didn’t spend more time at training conferences. It seems like there is an abundance of great training on the market. I suggest you check out http://conference.youthministry.com. Sometimes I reflect on my ministry to teens and I wonder if I equipped myself enough to do the job. I know I didn’t take full advantage of the training that was at my disposal. In addition, conferences are a great way to rev up your volunteer team and equip them to carry on the your legacy of ministry.
  5. Leadership Accountability
    Especially when I first started out in Student Ministry, I wanted to connect with the students so badly that I would go to extremes in attempt to connect with them. For example – one time I held a dance at our church where we pumped all secular music for the whole night. When I look back at it now, it produced nothing but a bunch of questions from concerned parents. One time at a retreat I got so rowdy with a group of teens playing dodge-ball that I let the game get way out of hand and we ended up knocking out three windows and costing the church hundreds of dollars. Another time I published a flyer that said “TRY P.O.T.” and passed it out in church and at the bottom of the flyer in very small font it said, “Come next Sunday to our Parent Of Teen meeting.” I know that we all make mistakes – but looking back now I bet I could have been more cautious about my actions. Perhaps having one of the Sr. leaders in the church meet with me throughout the year and hold my leadership accountable would have protected my ministry from some of my rookie mistakes.
  6. Equipped The Transition
    Some day you will transition out of Student Ministry. God either will call you to another place of ministry or he will call you home! Being prepared for the transition can protect the students from getting lost in the process. Transitions can be awkward and challenging, but I’ve found that most pastors/elders/deacons/boards are open to your input and recommendations for candidates that apply. I know of a church where there Youth Pastor of 14 years decided to transition out of the position and he actually served on the search committee and made himself available for the oncoming staff member to “show him the ropes” of the ministry. This can be a huge asset going into a new ministry position, and it will also show the students and the church congregation that the former Youth Pastor is approving of your new position in the church.

Nathan Kilgore
Associate Pastor of Discipleship
Pequea Brethren in Christ
Lancaster, PA

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