Over the past 10 years, I have had my idea of student ministry shifted. It all started when I began my first ministry, which was actually closer to 11 years ago. I led the middle school and high school youth groups at a small rural church in Illinois. I spent a lot of my time with the teens. Then, I moved onto my next church through an internship that turned into a resident ministry. During that time, I saw another way of doing ministry, where my mentor spent more and more time with his adult youth leaders and a select number of student leaders.
During my internship, I also read Mark DeVries’ book, Family-Based Youth Ministry, where I learned that I needed to also communicate with parents. So, in addition to discipling teens, I tried to make it a point to include parents on what we were doing. Not too long after I started my current ministry at Rockingham Christian Church, I learned of the “Orange” philosophy of family ministry, which essentially says that the church needs to partner with parents. So, I started trying to equip parents to be the spiritual leaders for their kids. Then, our ministry came across things like Legacy Milestones, where we help parents prepare for upcoming milestones by training them along the way. Needless to say, the way I think about student ministry now is very different than it was over 10 years ago.
I’ve been to several Orange Conferences, as you probably know by now, but I’m currently attending my first D6 Conference, which also focuses on Family Ministry. Today was filled with a ton of information. Honestly, it was a bit too much, as it often felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant. By the time I got to process about 10% of what one speaker said, I was moving onto the next one. From 8:30 AM until 9:30 PM, I heard many different messages, but one thing seemed to ring true so far — simplicity.
One speaker after another seemed to be saying, in the middle of a ton of useful and practical tips, to keep it simple by focusing on what is truly important. I think that we often make ministry much more complicated than it was ever intended to be. Yes, some complications are out of our control (i.e. the way we have to have a check-in procedure in children’s and student ministries in order to keep kids safe), but other complications are totally under our control. We think we have to add a new program every time we hear about something new. We think we have to do everything in our one to two hours with kids and parents per week. The list goes on and on and on…
I feel like God has been telling me that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. He wants us to simplify our ministry. It’s a ministry that doesn’t have to depend on just the children’s minister or student minister. It needs to be a church-wide philosophy. It’s a ministry that doesn’t have to be program driven. Just add it into whatever you’re already doing. It’s a ministry that doesn’t have to have a specific curriculum. Just focus on God and the Bible as a family. It’s a ministry that doesn’t need us to invent things. Just use what already exists. It’s a ministry that will eventually run itself, because families will be changed, and they will desire to help other families change.
There is honestly so much I could write about what I’ve heard in just this first day at D6, but I think the biggest thing that rings our right now is that it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we often make it. Instead, God is calling us to just focus on helping families understand that they are the image of God. And when families begin to get that concept, we will start to see true transformation in our churches, communities, and the world. Perhaps later, I will flesh out more of these individual thoughts that explain this further, but for now, I think God wants me (and maybe you too) to not get overwhelmed with all the “stuff,” but to think about doing this ministry simpler. That way, we can focus on the right things and let God do His thing.