Student Ministry in the Life of the Church

In my years of church-going, I have observed that many families arrive at church together only to part ways as soon as they enter the doors and not see each other again until it is time to leave. Everyone goes off to their own Sunday School class, then sometimes even to their own worship service. Is this the way it should be? Is this the way God intended church to function?


While I am a big proponent of age-specific ministry, such as children’s ministry, youth ministry, or senior adult ministry, we have to be careful that each of these groups does not become their own individual “church.” We are not several churches, we are Plymouth Park Baptist Church with several ministries.


To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I want to share a quote with you from Richard Ross, a man who has spent 50 years of his life in youth ministry. In a recent article calling for a radical reevaluation of youth ministry, he wrote,


Most churches keep teenagers encased in a youth ministry silo. That 1950s style of youth ministry does not create young adults who love the bride of Christ. Teenagers often speak of their love for the youth group and seldom speak of their love for the church. I strongly believe in age-group ministries. But we must give teenagers many more heart connections with the congregation and many new ways to do ministry side-by-side with the adult church.


Do we want students to love their youth group? Absolutely! But we don’t want it to stop there; we want them to love their church as a whole. And in order for that to happen, we have to seek ways to make sure that our students are involved in the overall ministry of the church. I am pleased to say that I have already seen ways that is taking place here at Plymouth Park, and in the days ahead we will be talking about even more ways to make that happen.


Think about it this way: Our students are currently in the student ministry, but that only lasts for seven years of their life (6th-12th grades). After that they become adults, go to college, join the workforce, get married, have children, etc. As a student pastor, I can look at that and say, “Ok, I have seven years to make an impact on these students,” OR I can say, “Ok I have seven years, so what can I do in those seven years to prepare these students to be leaders in their homes, in their churches, and in their places of business for years to come?” And one way we can prepare them to be leaders in their churches in the years ahead is to integrate them into our church ministries now.


So while we will continue to have our age-specific ministries, and rightly so, please join me in praying about ways that we can, as Ross says, “give teenagers many more heart connections with the congregation and many new ways to do ministry side-by-side with the adult church.”