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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The Problem:for: Youth Leaders

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry

Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry:

(1) Campus Ministry is intimidating. Within a church, a youth pastor naturally belongs. They have a title and they have a purpose that’s understood by most. In a high school however, there isn’t the natural acceptance of a youth pastor joining the campus community. You’re not a teacher or a student and you’re entering a brand new culture. It can be very uncomfortable at first.

(2) Campus Ministry requires time, effort & commitment. As Mark Batterson once put it, “In ministry today, we do not lack creativity. Let’s call it what it is. We’re lazy.” This may sound harsh at first, but if we’re honest with ourselves – we tend to choose the path of least resistance, even when it’s sometimes not the most effective choice. Just like any ministry, campus ministry takes work and investment.

(3) Campus Ministry requires growth on the part of the leader. Communicating with teachers and administrators, ministering to students with no religious background, and coaching students in a radically different environment may require significant personal growth from the youth pastor.

(4) Campus Ministry yields very few accolades. Ministry is typically an affirming atmosphere for pastors at least in some shape or form -ever heard of “Pastor’s Appreciation Day?” You will receive very little affirmation for committing yourself to the high school. Some leadership contexts may not view the campus as the strategic mission field that it is.

(5) Campus Ministry beckons a youth leader to acknowledge the real “war” taking place. Ignorance is bliss. The youth room is a safe place for a youth pastor. The school is a lot more dangerous. Whether in class or participating in sports and extracurricular clubs, our students spend the great majority of their time on the campus.

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry: (1) Campus...

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Keeping it in Frontfor: Youth Leaders

At our our back-to-school retreat in September (Advance), we took time to honor a few of the most committed campus missionaries in the PennDel District. These students not only committed to be campus missionaries during the past school year, but they also consistently reported on their activities through our online campus missionary reporting system. It’s very easy to inspire students to commit to be campus missionaries. However, it’s an entire different matter to see them follow that commitment through on a consistent basis throughout the school year. Furthermore, it can be a challenge to get them to consistently report on their activities through the online system. There were two churches that consistently had several students reporting, one of them was Assembly of God of North East. Kris Lewis is the youth pastor there, and I asked him how he was able to procure such consistent results from his students. He thought about it for a few weeks and then sent me this reply:

“I know there have been a couple times when you have asked me what I have done to “prompt” or encourage my students to be CM’s and fill out their reports.  And really the funny thing is I really haven’t done much.  We come to Advance every year, and that really has been the driving force behind it.  From Advance and the focus on CM’s, our students started a prayer meeting at their school (we represent only one school for the most part), took ownership of SYATP and really lead the other church youth groups it seems in our area.  Again I really don’t know where it comes from… LOL.

From the Ministers Enrichment this year when Dick Foth was talking about keeping it Simple, and then also in our break out session if I had to put my finger on it. I guess I can say the big reason is that we TALK and fuel our students to do all the work at their school.  Kind of fueling their fire from Advance by talking about and giving opportunities for them to invite a peer.  LOL, really just teaching and releasing for ministry.”

Kris has identified one of the key principles to success in youth ministry. I call it the “Keeping it in Front of Them” principle. Someone else much smarter than me has probably already identify this and given it a more proper name. Regarding his success, Kris writes, “the big reason is that we TALK and fuel our students to do all the work at their school.” He consistently fuels their fire. He keeps it in front of them. If you want students to retain and stay committed to the things you’ve taught them, you’ve got to keep it in front of them. Not just once, not just twice. You got to keep it in front of them on a consistent basis throughout the year. What are you doing to keep Campus Missions, or any of your core youth ministry values, in front of your students?

At our our back-to-school retreat in September (Advance), we took time to honor a few of the most committed campus missionaries in the PennDel District. These students not only committed to be campus missionaries during the past school year, but they also consistently reported on their activities through our online campus missionary reporting system. It’s very easy...

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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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