A minister of students (Youth Pastor) has the responsibility to plan and coordinate everything a local church does to minister to students and their parents. The age range for student ministry usually starts during the 6th or 7th grade (depending on the church) and continues through the student’s senior year (12th grade).
Depending on the role of staff at the church, a minister of students may serve in a full or part-time capacity. In many cases, a minister to students may also serve the church with other responsibilities as well, such as a combination type position. As student ministry has become more specialized, more and more larger churches are utilizing separate staff to cover junior high and high school age groups. In other cases, a church may also choose to use lay leadership based on resources available.
The minister of students serves as a guide and expert on adolescents. It is their job to effectively become a “life-long student” of youth culture. The minister of students serves as a role model for students in helping them become fully devoted followers of Christ. It is also their responsibility to partner with parents and help them to equip their students in the area of discipleship as they grow. Effective student ministries work with parents and volunteers to achieve their goals and strive to implement a strategy that equips them to minister to teenagers.
Effective student ministers are team players. They do not see their area of ministry as a separate entity of the church but as a viable part of the total church. The student ministry should support and assist other ministries of the church. Not only does it give students the opportunity to serve, but it allows the church to see how important teenagers are to the life of the congregation. It also moves students from the “church of the future” mentality to the church of “now.” Leadership opportunities at a young age build confidence that becomes invaluable throughout their lives.
Student ministers work in a variety of environments each week. Part of their work is administrative in nature, while other environments consist of Bible teaching and worship atmospheres. Effective student ministers are in the community. They attend school events and other activities their students are involved in outside of school. Building a strong support base outside the walls of the church is very important.
There is a myth that student ministers must be young and just out of college. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There are numerous examples of thriving student ministries that are led by older, more seasoned adults. Age has no bearing on the giftedness of a student minister. In many cases there is no substitute for experience when dealing with students. The other myth that tends to follow student ministry is that it is a “stepping-stone” to pastoral or adult ministries. While it may happen on occasion, many circumstances see individuals called to work with students for as long as they are in ministry.
Several qualities though, seem common to all effective student ministers. Each has a dynamic love for Jesus Christ and a deep desire to see Him receive glory through the lives of students. Each has an unconditional love for those student and is able to communicate that love in ways they can understand.
A minister of students gives leadership and support to three key groups of people. First, he or she works directly with students. As noted above, this work includes both formal ties with the students and time spent one-on-one.
Second, a minister of students also gives leadership to all adults who work with student. In most church, he or she takes the lead in enlisting adults to serve in all the student organizations. He then ensures that leaders receive the specific training they need. A student minister also creates ways to spiritually develop adult leaders. The spiritual maturity and continued growth of leaders is the key element that will determine the spiritual growth of a student group.
Third, a minister of student provides ministry to the parents of student. Effective student ministers recognize the powerful impact of the home, either positive or negative, on teenagers.
Student ministries today do much of their work through the adult leadership team and parents of student. They know that biblically, ministries are called to equip the saints, so that those saints can perform the work of student ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)
Creative student ministries spend significant time each week preparing seminars, worship services for students, mission trips, camps, parent support groups, parent and student dialogues, parent and student retreats, and many other opportunities.
Because of the increasing complexity of issues facing teenagers, student ministry is becoming more challenging. Formal education is vital. As a “life-long learner” of youth culture, sharpening one’s skills in theology and education ministry is very important.
Achieving concentrated training in student ministry makes sense. Several of our Southern Baptist seminaries provide master’s degrees with concentrations in student education or student ministry. Every long-term student minister should give strong consideration to that academic goal.
A bachelor’s degree in student-ministry related field should be a vocational minimum. College students bound for seminaries should consider a balanced, liberal arts degree. Our Southern Baptist colleges are providing student ministry sources that can provide a good foundation for seminary work.
Continuing education in student ministry is provided by several colleges and seminaries, many state conventions, and most Southern Baptist boards and agencies. Students not serving in a church can call state convention offices to have their names added to appropriate mailing lists.
The growth of teenagers has provided several opportunities for churches to staff student ministry positions. Churches see the need for specialized, age related ministries. Over eight thousand churches provide a part-time or full-time salary for that position. That number grows annually as Southern Baptist churches become increasingly larger.
Student ministers can be called by a search committee and elected by the church or hired by other staff members such as pastors and education ministers with church approval. Churches often learn of prospects by requesting names from church members, college and seminary placement offices, and association and state convention offices. There are also several websites that provide job opportunities and positions, as well as organizations that serve as search firms for larger churches.