One Thing Every Healthy Youth Ministry Needsfor: Youth Leaders

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one…As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (vss. 15, 18 NIV). Jesus had many disciples while on the earth, but this prayer was specifically for His closest disciples; the eleven who remained faithful to Him until the end. These were arguably the most important disciples in the history of the Church. Even if we knew nothing else of Jesus’ time with His followers, we could still make two conclusions about His discipleship model from this prayer. First, that He “sent” His followers on a mission. Time with Jesus included mission and ultimately prepared and equipped the disciples for mission. Second, Jesus was not afraid to put His disciples at risk, for risk is inherent in mission. And so Jesus prayed, “God, protect them…for I am sending them.”

In the church and in the family our most important disciples are our children and youth. If we are leading like Jesus led and discipling like Jesus discipled, then we must also pray, “God protect them…for we are sending them.” And then we must send them. That’s why every healthy youth ministry includes mission and builds towards mission in its discipleship methods. For the majority of today’s students the field of mission is the public school, so our discipleship must include preparing and equipping students for this mission. Home, Cyber, and Christian-school students rarely make contact with this vast mission field. As a result, the church and the family must take extra care to find regular opportunities for these students to engage in mission, or their discipleship may become extraordinarily unbalanced and/or become too self-focused. Regardless of how it’s accomplished, every healthy Biblical model of discipleship in youth ministry includes and leads to mission.

The risk of excluding mission from discipleship in youth ministry is far greater than the inherent risk of engaging mission. When we exclude mission, we teach our students a version of Christianity that has little basis in the Cross. Mission leads to selflessness; no mission leads to self-centeredness. Mission leads to dependence on the Holy Spirit; no mission leads to dependence on self. Mission leads to the Cross; no mission leads to simple morality. This is unhealthy youth ministry. Discipleship that doesn’t include mission usually ends in what theologians and sociologists have termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). A comprehensive study[1] in 2005 by researchers at the University of North Carolina concluded that most religious teenagers in America actually adhere to MTD rather than authentic, Cross-centered and Spirit driven Christianity.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is rampant in youth ministry. The end goal of MTD is to be happy and to feel good about yourself, which is accomplished through being moral in your own life and being nice to others. God exists, but isn’t really involved unless you need something fixed, and He lets good people go to heaven when they die. In MTD, there is little demand for holiness, sacrifice, or mission as defined by Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost.” If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with a generation of students who know how to be good, but don’t know how to carry the cross.

The solution is simple—stop putting students in the spotlight, and start putting the spotlight on Jesus. Give them a cross to carry, a sacrifice to strive toward, and a mission (Luke 19:10) to be a part of. That’s healthy youth ministry! And what about the inherent risk? Jesus gave us a risk manager—the promised Holy Spirit. So let us pray with confidence, “God, protect them…for we are sending them.”

[1] Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one…As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (vss. 15, 18 NIV). Jesus had many disciples while...

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The Bridge Cardfor: Students

The BRIDGE Card

bridge card

Going through school can be challenging as a teenager, not to mention if you have a faith in Jesus Christ then it has more then it’s share of challenges. Although we know of the great reward in eternity we will receive for living our faith out to the example Christ set upon the Cross for us, life can get discouraging. But although we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death we are called to proclaim the love of our God. Now, telling others about your faith can seem like a daunting task and seems almost impossible without offending someone, here is a way to show God’s Love to others and help you start the conversation of salvation with a friend by using your own story of how god has changed your entire life with his amazing and faithful love he has graced us with regardless of our past. The power of the Bridge Card is YOUR story, it really is your testimony that gives it the power for you to relate to others and help them understand salvation. As you walk through your story, point out each verse with the corresponding block of the card. The goal of the card, is to tell others that Jesus bridged the gap between Him and us, and that they to walk on that bridge and take part in the everlasting life God has presented us with.

 

The DesireThe thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)

 

The Problem

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23 NLT)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NLT)

 

The Answer

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8 NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians2:8, 9 NLT)

 

The Response

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9 NLT)

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10 NLT)

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NLT)

The BRIDGE Card Going through school can be challenging as a teenager, not to mention if you have a faith in Jesus Christ then it has more then it’s share of challenges. Although we know of the great reward in eternity we will receive for living our faith out to the example Christ set upon the Cross...

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Learning to Follow Your Guidefor: Youth Leaders

Why you should let students lead you onto their campus

Have you ever watched the discovery channel when an explorer is visiting a far-off land? Perhaps they were delving into the ominous covering of the Amazon jungle, or maybe they were spelunking an intricate cave system. Every time you watch these thrill-seekers take the plunge into an unknown world, they’re never alone. There’s always a guide showing them the way, usually somewhere off camera.

These guides aren’t really experts on travel or exploration. They simply live in the area. They know the shortcuts, the native inhabitants, and they know how to survive in this foreign land that they call home.

The local high school is far from being the Amazon jungle, but every school is different. I’ve coached over two hundred students on six campuses, and every time I step into a new school, I instinctively know that this school is special. It may have similarities to other schools, but it’s a unique melting pot of its community.

When we decide to establish a presence at one of our local high schools, the first thing I do is choose a guide. I choose a student who knows God and who knows the school, the rest of the journey we can figure out as we go, it’s honestly a lot of fun “figuring it out.” I’ve met so many youth leaders, who are paralyzed in ministry trying to figure out every single detail of the process before they take the first step. I’ve learned to enjoy the journey and to trust my guide. It’s an adventure!

When we launch a campus ministry, I sponsor the club as a coach, but my students lead the way. They find a teacher who will host the club. They meet with the principal to get the green light. They rally their peers. And THEN, they invite me to join them as a coach to them and their leadership team. I attend the club and then coach them outside of school on how they can be more effective in ministry.

There’s an interesting dynamic that develops between you and your students when you decide to follow them onto their campus. You trust them, and they’re partnering with you. You’re in a foreign land, and they’re the only one that knows the way. They need your coaching, and you need their connections. Together, God will use you both to do some amazing things. The mentoring relationships that I have with my “guides” runs deep. They’ve proven themselves as difference-makers.

I sometimes wonder, does the greatest impact takes place in their school or in their heart? All of my former guides are now doing amazing things for Christ! Why not? The greatest challenge at their age is to evangelize their school. They’ve done their part. If they can live out their faith there, they can live it out anywhere.

For more information about following your students onto their campus, read another article on ReachTheSchool.com titled, Why I Go With Them.

Why you should let students lead you onto their campus Have you ever watched the discovery channel when an explorer is visiting a far-off land? Perhaps they were delving into the ominous covering of the Amazon jungle, or maybe they were spelunking an intricate cave system. Every time you watch these thrill-seekers take the plunge into an...

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Before You React…6 Tips to Reach the Schoolfor: Youth Leaders

Last week we began a series on being intentional in youth ministry. The underlying principle is that you’ve got to be intentional if you want to get specific outcomes in discipleship. This is also known as being “proactive” in your approach to youth ministry. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. A lot youth leaders conduct their youth ministries in a reactive manner. They see issues, problems, or drama amongst their students and then address those issues in a sermon or activity as a reaction to what they see. For example, if the students in your youth ministry are very selfish, you may be tempted to preach on the evils of selfishness. But if you really want to correct selfish behavior, you should talk about sacrifice and teach students what it means to give, because giving is the cure for selfishness. This is being proactive (instead of reactive) in youth ministry. It’s another form of intentionality wherein you schedule and gear your youth ministry culture towards producing discipleship outcomes, as opposed to simply reacting to sin issues. As you produce meaningful discipleship outcomes, you’ll find that those major sin issues become non-factors. So before you react, pro-act.

Imagine if Jesus had been a reactive leader. Peter could not walk on water until the whole betrayal thing had been worked out of his system. The Sons of Thunder would have been put on some type of medication to calm them down before they could be challenged with deep principles of discipleship. Thomas couldn’t participate in Jesus’ ministry until his doubt had been addressed. Instead of reacting to the sins and issues Jesus knew his disciples would engage in, He proactively challenged them follow Him and engage in missional activity along the way. He does the same thing with us today.

So…how can you be proactively intentional in order to produce the outcome of missional living in the lives of your students? Start with what you’re doing in your youth group. What you’re preaching, planning, and spending money on should all point to reaching the school if that’s the outcome you desire. Here are six practical things I recommend you do if you want to reach the school and create a culture of missional living:

  1. Schedule your preaching calendar, small group sessions, discussion times, etc. to include a 4-8 week series on living missionally on the Campus. Preach about the reaching the school, discuss the reaching the school, gear your small group curriculums towards reaching the school. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…and then talk about it some more!
  2. Schedule and plan to participate in 3-4 events that geared towards reaching the school with the Gospel in August and September. Here’s some suggestions:
    • Advance. This back-to-school retreat takes place Labor Day weekend of each year and focuses on the individual values of missional living. Stay tuned to this blog for more info.
    • Unleashed: Campus Ministry Training Conference. These regional 1/2 day events focus on student group efforts to reach the school (Bible Club planning, outreach events, etc.).
    • Pre-Pole Rally. Get together with some other youth pastors in your area and plan a rally the weekend before See You At The Pole.
    • See You At the Pole. Promote it, help your students plan for it, go to it, follow up with testimonies in your youth service after it.
  3. Schedule at least half a day each week to be on the school campus. What you do with your time speaks volumes about what you value. If campus missions is important to you, and having students who live missionally is important to you, make time to be in their mission field!
  4. Use some of your youth ministry budget for Campus Ministry. Consider giving a grant to each local Bible Club for use in missional activity. Don’t have a budget? Have a fundraiser and create a budget from the profits.
  5. Challenge your students to a special personal initiative they can do in their school. The 1-Month Challenge, 30 Second Kneel Down, and wearing visual displays such as buttons are all good examples of this.
  6. Recruit and equip some leaders to be involved in reaching the school. Our adult leaders are some of our best resources, so give them a meaningful task by asking them to be a Bible Club coach.

Last week we began a series on being intentional in youth ministry. The underlying principle is that you’ve got to be intentional if you want to get specific outcomes in discipleship. This is also known as being “proactive” in your approach to youth ministry. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. A lot youth leaders conduct...

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Are you Macro or Micro? Being Intentional in Discipleshipfor: Youth Leaders

A few weeks ago the Exponential leadership cohort had a Skype session with the National Youth Alive Director, Steve Pulis. I asked Steve to talk with us about “Becoming the Kind of Leader who can Impact the Campus.” One of the first things he said was something like this, “If you want to be the kind of leader who impacts the campus, you have to be intentional with what you do. Students reaching students on the campus doesn’t happen by accident.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to believe that if we are making disciples of Christ, they will naturally want to share their faith with those around them. However, it will not happen unless we are intentional in teaching our students to share their faith, and in modeling it for them.

Almost every youth worker has some measure of intentionality in their ministry. We intend to help teenagers and to mold them into disciples of Christ. We get the big picture; that’s why we got into youth ministry. Let’s call this being “macro-intentional.” However, if you want to produce specific discipleship outcomes in students (such as Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, missional living, etc.), you’ve got to be far more intentional than simply working broadly at the big picture. For example, if you want the students in your ministry to be passionate about missions, then you need to talk about missions, invite missionaries to share their stories, take missions trips, and do missions-based events. Let’s call this being “micro-intentional.” Being micro-intentional means that you drill down on a particular area of discipleship or Christlike expression to produce specific outcomes. If all you’re doing is holding all-nighters, dodgeball tournaments, and preaching random messages each week, it’s unlikely your students will gravitate towards any specific discipleship outcomes. They probably like you and you probably have a lot of fun together, but you may unintentionally be missing the point of youth ministry.

So what does being micro-intentional look like for campus ministry? How do we intentionally move students towards missional living in their schools? This is a question we will be exploring in detail over the next few weeks. Essentially, being intentional towards the campus means your youth ministry’s calendar, financial resources, and discussions all point to missional living in school. It means that your time usage, as a leader, exemplifies that the campus is an important mission field. The apostle Paul gives a good view of what it means to be intentional in discipleship in Philippians 4:9 where he writes, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.” Paul’s intentionality is revealed in that he showed his followers what he wanted them to learn, he talked about what he wanted them to learn, and he modeled the things he wanted his followers to do. The results are clearly visible through the witness of history, resulting in the size and scope of the church today. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success!

If your youth ministry were to be examined, what specific areas would we find you exercising micro-intention? What are some ways you could be more intentional for campus ministry? Next week I’ll be writing about being intentional with your ministry calendar, budget, and resources.

A few weeks ago the Exponential leadership cohort had a Skype session with the National Youth Alive Director, Steve Pulis. I asked Steve to talk with us about “Becoming the Kind of Leader who can Impact the Campus.” One of the first things he said was something like this, “If you want to be the kind of...

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Raising Up Students Who Want To Do Campus Ministryfor: Youth Leaders

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do campus ministry:

(1)   Campus Missions Curriculum – The campus is a big deal to us and our students know it! We take on ten different message series’ every year. The most important series we do will run through August and September.  We prepare students for the upcoming school year by doing two things: (1) We empower them to join/launch a campus ministry, and (2) we equip them with resources and training to impact their peers.  By the time school starts our students are chomping at the bit!

Big Idea: We challenge students to have a “five-friend focus” (www.yausa.com). A Five Friend Focus is a list of five friends they know who demonstrate a need for Christ.

(2)   Campus Missions Core – Like most youth ministries, we have several teams our students can join. Those who join our student leadership team share opportunities and responsibilities that other students do not have access to. There is a base requirement though – you must be actively involved in campus ministry. We believe that worship and fellowship take place in our youth facility, but leadership takes place on the campus.

Big Idea: Around the start of the school year our student leaders are challenged to invite at least two of their peers to their school’s campus club. These challenges are a requirement and our student leaders support each other and hold each other accountable to fulfill their goals.

(3)   Campus Missions Crew Chances are a student visiting our youth ministry has already attended one of our Campus Clubs. So when a student like James surrenders his life to Christ in our youth service, he already knows exactly where to go to start making an impact on his campus. Because their salvation journey started with a connection to a Campus Club, it’s natural that they want to do Campus Ministry and see the importance of it.

Big Idea: We purchase two six foot banners for each club and we post matching graphics on framed posters in our youth room.  We strategically do this to “sync” our youth ministry with our clubs.

Campus Ministry is part of our DNA now. But if the high school hasn’t been a strategic mission field for your youth ministry, do not be discouraged. Every great journey starts with a single step.  You’ll never regret making the campus a priority in your ministry.

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do...

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The Solution:for: Youth Leaders

Five Ways of Addressing the Challenges of Campus Ministry

A few weeks ago my friend, Rob Gillen, wrote a great entry entitled “The Problem: Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry.” He identified some of the core fears and hindrances that keep youth pastors from engaging the Campus as a mission field and as a relevant component of student spiritual development. Interestingly, none of the identifiable problems were material. They are all philosophical, ethereal, missiological problems. Here’s some suggestions, along those lines, to tackle these problems:

(1) Problem: Campus Ministry is intimidating. Solution: Step outside your comfort zone. Was it intimidating for Moses to confront Pharaoh? Was it intimidating for Jonah to preach to Nineveh? Did Peter find it easy to step outside the boat? Anything worth doing will carry a level of intimidation. Your real fears are rejection by campus officials and failure to succeed in an uncomfortable environment. Recognize three things: You can do this even though it’s uncomfortable (Phil. 4:13), there is a power inside you to overcome these obstacles (Acts 1:8), facing intimidation is a blessing from God and a path to growth (James 1:2-3).

(2) Problem: Campus Ministry requires time, effort & commitment. Solution: Make time for what’s important to you. I’m assuming you’re in youth ministry because you care about teenagers and want to make disciples of Christ. This is important to you. However, no one can become a disciple of Christ without adopting His missional ethos; to seek and save that which is lost (Matt. 18:11, Luke 19:10). If you’re not adopting this ethos personally, and you’re not building this into your students, you’re not making time for what’s important to you. Your youth ministry may be a safe and fun “club” that students belong to, but you can’t make disciples without mission.

(3) Problem: Campus Ministry requires growth on the part of the leader. Solution: Find a mentor and do some reading. Everything that grows changes. It’s one of the fundamental rules of life. The inverse is also true, everything that refuses to grow doesn’t change. To help you through this growth, find a coach-mentor (Phil. 3:17), and read some books on leadership and the missional church. Contact me by emailing Lee@reachtheschool.com for suggestions.

(4) Problem: Campus Ministry yields very few accolades. Solution: Figure out what a win looks like and highlight it. The current mission of the church is a little off kilter from missio Dei (the mission of God). You may need to start defining what a win looks like in campus ministry and identify scriptural principles to go with it. For example: student’s sharing their faith, campus ministries being planted, new visitors as a result of campus ministry, etc.. Once you define what a win is, start highlighting the win and the scriptural principle to your leader and church. Soon the accolades will be rolling in.

(5) Problem: Campus Ministry beckons a youth leader to acknowledge the real “war” taking place. Solution: Put yourself into secular teenage contexts. If you think your youth ministry is changing the larger context of students in your community, try spending some time in their world: athletic events, the local mall on a Friday night, and, best of all, High School Dances. This will give you a broader look at how wide ranging your impact is and spark a passion in you to change things.

Five Ways of Addressing the Challenges of Campus Ministry A few weeks ago my friend, Rob Gillen, wrote a great entry entitled “The Problem: Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry.” He identified some of the core fears and hindrances that keep youth pastors from engaging the Campus as a mission field and as a relevant...

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Are You Blind, or Do You See?for: Youth Leaders

Last week I had the honor of recruiting Campus Missionaries at a great youth group in Central Pennsylvania. When I am challenging students to become CM’s, I like to explain the fivefold commitment of pray, live, tell, serve, and give. That can be quite a task when you only have 30-45 minutes to explain, inspire, and have a response time. I usually try to incorporate the five commitments into the inspirational portion of my message so it naturally intertwines. While speaking about the “give” element of a Campus Missionary, I referenced Proverbs 29:7, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”(NIV).

I recognize that words justice, injustice and the phrase social justice have become large buzz words over the past decade. That is not a bad thing. The prophets of the Old Testament were huge advocates of social justice. Isaiah was especially sickened by the ornate nature of Israel’s religious class when compared to the poor in Hebrew society. In a sound rejection of Israel’s showy fasting habits, he wrote, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6 NIV).

There is great injustice happening in our own neighborhoods that we frequently do not recognize. Perhaps the focus on global justice has taken our eyes off of being locally focused on mission, as well. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in good social justice. Providing clean water, medical care, and education to impoverished people groups are things the church should be leading in. We definitely recognize the injustice of children born into areas of the world where they will not have access to the basic needs of humanity. But do we recognize the injustice that is happening in our own neighborhood? I am speaking of Spiritual Injustice. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19 ESV). He was talking about the great Spiritual Injustice that existed then and still exists today.

Are you blind to this injustice? If you were to look at the composition of your youth ministry, what would that look like? Do the students in your youth ministry primarily come from Christian homes? My guess is that, for most youth ministries, the answer is yes. That is because most of our students grew up with the privilege of a Christian witness in the home. However, there are thousands of students in each of our neighborhoods who have not had the same privilege. This is Spiritual Injustice. This is what Jesus came to correct. When the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, the Father spoke, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18 ESV). We only add to the injustice if we are unwilling to be missional in our context.

So what can we as youth leaders do? We are called, as pastors, to eqiup the Saints for the work of the ministry. Addressing Spiritual Injustice begins with teaching our students to be missional in their schools. Begin by casting vision in your ministry for missional living. Consider Recruiting Campus Missionaries as a starting point. Begin to pray for a burden for your schools. Do something! Injustice will never be corrected while we only talk about the problem. You are the primary line of discipleship to the students in your youth ministry. Therefore, the impetus is on you to missionally shape them.

Last week I had the honor of recruiting Campus Missionaries at a great youth group in Central Pennsylvania. When I am challenging students to become CM’s, I like to explain the fivefold commitment of pray, live, tell, serve, and give. That can be quite a task when you only have 30-45 minutes to explain, inspire, and have...

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Why I Go With Themfor: Youth Leaders

“Why do you go to the campus ministry meetings?” This is what a youth pastor friend of mine asked me recently. Our youth ministry has led several campus bible clubs for the last few years – all of which I’ve had the privilege to sponsor as a Campus Coach. My friend asked me a great question, one that has several answers:

(1) Ministry Coaching – Many of our students are actively involved in campus ministries all across Harrisburg. They’re taking what they’ve learned in our youth ministry and they’re applying it in real-life scenarios on their campus. My role on the campus is hands-off. I do not lead our campus ministries, our students do. As a matter of fact, during the actual meetings I do nothing but attend and build relationships with students. But before and after our meetings I have the unique opportunity of speaking into the lives of our students and coaching them in ministry.

(2) Validating their Cause – There are a lot of items on a youth pastor’s calendar. But if I had to prioritize something, it would have to be investing in students who are doing campus ministry. There’s something pretty amazing that happens in the heart of a teenager when they see their youth pastor sitting at a desk, watching them preach, lead worship, or share their testimony in their geometry classroom.

(3) Instilling Confidence – I’ve challenged my students to take their school for Christ. I want them to know something very important. I’m not afraid of their school. Every week I’m in their hallways, I’m in their classrooms, and I’m in their cafeteria. I know their principals, their teachers and their classmates. When I stand at the pulpit and I ask our students to share the gospel at their schools, they know that I’m not referencing a far-off place that I know nothing about, or the high school that I once attended “back in the day” when I was teenager. They know that I’m talking about the school that we’ve gone to together. In every form possible on my end of the spectrum, I’m in the trenches with my students, and they know it.

There are many ways to do campus ministry. This is just one of them. But I can personally attest, as a youth pastor who is currently serving in several of our local high schools, I’ve found no more effective way of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” than by following them into their high schools.

“Why do you go to the campus ministry meetings?” This is what a youth pastor friend of mine asked me recently. Our youth ministry has led several campus bible clubs for the last few years – all of which I’ve had the privilege to sponsor as a Campus Coach. My friend asked me a great question, one...

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I recently had a conversation…for: Youth Leaders

I recently had a conversation with a youth pastor regarding Campus Missions. His youth ministry was not active in their local school systems, and he was apologetically trying to explain why. “We’ve been told that we are not welcome in the school system, so unfortunately we can’t be involved in Campus Missions.”  He went on to explain, “Evidently a youth pastor really messed things up years ago by overstepping the legal boundaries, and now the schools won’t have anything to do with youth pastors.” This is a familiar story that I’ve heard many times over. I’ve also personally experienced the rejection of an administrator who felt the presence of a youth pastor on campus would violate the United States Constitution. Sounds pretty serious. While I don’t agree with this decision by many school administrations, I also believe the youth pastor was wrong. He allowed a decision by an administrator to become an excuse that dictated the direction and scope of his youth ministry. More specifically, the rejection of the school system became a rule for what his youth ministry couldn’t do.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the campus. It’s also easy to be affected by rejection. But our God is bigger than one campus and one decision. Additionally, rejection does not change our mission, nor that of our students. And students are the key to dealing with rejection from a school administrator. This is because at it’s heart, campus missions is not about a youth pastor or youth leader. It’s about students rising up to become leaders in their own right. You can be successful in Campus Missions and be prohibited from being on campus at the same time. Just like youth ministry, Campus Missions is not about youth pastors—it’s about students. Does your view of Campus Missions mean that you have to personally be present, making an impact on the campus? Or does it mean that your youth ministry, through your students, has an impact on the campus?

You see, an administration can prohibit a Christian youth pastor from coming to school. But they can’t prohibit Christian students from coming to school. Even if they tried to prohibit a Bible Club from officially forming, they couldn’t prevent students from exercising grassroots Christianity. They can’t stop students from gathering for prayer, reading their Bibles, or sharing their faith. As leaders, we cannot use personal rejection or perceived legal decisions as an excuse for ineffective Campus Missions. No, you may not personally be allowed on the campus, but your students are allowed.  Not only are they allowed, but they are required to be there. So instead of making excuses, let’s start building missional students. Through the discipleship process of building missional students, our spiritual presence on the campus will be more powerful than our personal physical presence could ever be. It’s not about us—it’s about students.

I recently had a conversation with a youth pastor regarding Campus Missions. His youth ministry was not active in their local school systems, and he was apologetically trying to explain why. “We’ve been told that we are not welcome in the school system, so unfortunately we can’t be involved in Campus Missions.”  He went on to explain,...

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