In the past five years I have had the privilege to see a lot of different student ministries and work along side of many different student pastors. In each ministry I have seen different approaches to student ministry, but in every student ministry I have seen three things that I believe are a must for every student pastor. Whatever your doing in student ministry, I believe you MUST be doing these three things:

1. Teach students the Bible. The most important thing student pastors must do is teach students the Bible. The Word of God is the only thing that can truly change their life and help them follow God for the rest of their life. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this: I believe students need to hear good, solid expository preaching and teaching whenever they come to a youth group meeting. I’m all for small groups, which I believe are vital in student ministry (click here to see my thoughts on this), but student pastors need to teach the Bible in an expository manner to their students. Not only in large youth group gathers, students need to be taught the Bible within small groups that I believe should be a vital part of student ministry. Whatever way your ministry is set up, students have to be taught the Bible. I’m all for relationships and creative styles of discipleship, but I believe solid, Bible teaching is a must for all student pastors.

2. Train and build adult leaders. If you want a growing and healthy student ministry, you must have a team of well-trained adults to do ministry along side of you. Students pastors must spend much of their time recruiting adult leaders, training and equipping them, and giving them opportunities to serve students. In the book The Greenhouse Project, Ric Garland points out that one person can only disciple 5 to 6 students effectively. That means if your ministry has six or more students in it, you have to have adult leaders helping you. Student pastors need to spend the same amount of time building and training leaders as they do spending time with the students.

3. Minister to the parents. I believe a student pastor is not just called to serve the students, they are called to serve the parents as well. The parents are responsible for the spiritual growth of their own students so student pastors must never take that place. We must partner with the parents as we point their students to Christ. Many student pastors spend little time with parents outside just giving them information on events and activities. We as student pastors need to spend time building relationships with the parents, teaching the about the culture of their students, and equipping them with resources to train their students.

These are three things you must be doing as a student pastor. Other things are great and have their place, but we cannot allow these three things to be put on the back burner. Student pastor, teaching your students the Bible, build a healthy leadership team of adults, and always serve the parents.

Austin is currently a pastoral intern at Weymouth Community Church in Medina, OH. He just finished his Bachelors degree from Piedmont International University in Christian Ministries with a student ministries and pastoral studies minors. He is now working on his Master’s degree, got engaged, and is looking for his first-full time ministry position in the area of student ministry. You can find his blog online at

In my first few years as a youth pastor I keenly remember a faithful student named Scott. He was the child of a single parent, and like many students he struggled as a result of not having a father figure at home. I was like a father to Scott, and he looked at me the same. I was a voice of encouragement that took pride in his efforts and successes. He required extra care and time and in many cases grace as they things you would expect that he know were not fair to assume.

So many students are fatherless, motherless, spiritually orphaned or from a home that claims to be rich in their spiritual lives but in actuality is bankrupt. Your encouragement to them, your willingness to pray for them, to value their opinion and to be a good role model to them can make a world of difference. Don’t take lightly the fact that you are the best example of a man or a woman in their lives and that can have lasting implications on who they become and eventually marry.

It is for these students that we need to remind them often that in the midst of a void in the area of an earthly father that there is a heavenly father and He is the father to fatherless. While pointing our students to Him, you need to know that these are the students that need more of your time; they crave it to know that they are acceptable and loved. This is an incredible opportunity to show these students who Jesus is and what He is about and I challenged to seek out these students and make time for them.

4 quick takeaway points to think about today as you youth pastor-parent:

  • Think like a parent — What are the needs of that student? If they were my son or daughter, what would I say or do. Be that spiritual voice of truth like they were your own kid.
  • Share your pride of your students — Tell them you are proud of them and why. Notice the little things they say and do. Balance correction and hard truth with lavish and genuine praise.
  • Remind them that they are loved — By God, by your leaders, by you.
  • Be a solid role model — You might be the best image of what a man or a woman is to them.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. -Psalm 68:5


You may have seen a youth group that has just settled. The students know what is coming next in program, you have not done anything new in five years, there is a lot of insider talk going on and any new people that want to come to youth group find themselves left out. You have probably played the same games every four months, the lessons seem to be oddly similar week to week, and praise and worship has become stale. I have been to a couple of them and I find my heart breaking for what more their could be.

I have worked in some very different places as I have served as a paid youth worker. Sometimes the community of youth workers did amazing ministry that inspired me to go far and above what I thought was good enough for youth ministry. Other times, I have served in an area where the youth workers did just enough to look good and get their pay check. The organization I am working with now, Club Beyond, does not settle for good enough.

We do youth ministry in chapels on military bases which means we have high expectations for being great in ministry. Traditions can be a great thing, but if not navigated well, you can fall into a youth ministry rut.

So is your youth ministry settling for good enough? Take this quick survey:

  1. What is the state of the spiritual formation of your students?
  2. Has your youth group format changed at all in three months?
  3. Do your students ask the tough questions and do you address those questions at some point?
  4. Are you excited the day of your meeting or think more about what is going to happen afterwards?
  5. Have your teenagers, volunteers, parents, and yourself been challenged at all in the last four meetings?

These might not be fun questions to answer, but for your students to thrive at youth group, you need to provide a ministry that is thriving too.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

I love it when churches give their staff a spiritual retreat day to focus and center on God. Quite honestly, I like the idea more than I have been able to actually do it! I read this blog post a month ago from NRSM Online that has stuck with me for the past 30 days. So today … (assuming I made it back safely fro Rwanda – doh!) I’m on a spiritual retreat day! Here’s a clip of the blog post I think is worth checking out and implementing soon in your context:

Move slower all day. Seriously, everything you do during the entire day…do it slower. We do everything so freaking fast these days. Take time on this particular day to walk slower, eat slower, talk slower, drive slower (maybe go the speed limit instead of 5 over), read slower, pray slower. Everything.

Location. Your location is key to this whole deal. You need someplace quiet (this is a non-negotiable). You also need an environment that is somewhat new or unknown to you. For me, the more familiar a place is, the more likely I am to fall into whatever routine I’m used to following in that spot. New place…new routine. Finally, you need to be alone. That doesn’t necessarily mean there can’t be other people in the same building or room (although you might need that), but it needs to be a place where no one knows you and no one will be bothering or distracting you.

No retreat agenda. Agendas & task lists are the enemies of your Spiritual Retreat Day.

#1-Agendas prevent you from moving slower. If you have some items to cross off a list, your tendency is to dive in full steam ahead. Unacceptable. What if you get 45 minutes into your time alone and don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything yet? Oh well!

#2-Agendas lead to a defined “win,” and a defined “win” creates the possibility that you might “lose.” There is no failure on this day. There are no unfulfilled expectations on this day. There are no unfinished tasks on this day. If your Spiritual Retreat Day exists, you win. Besides, you can always go back to being a loser tomorrow.


My kids were watching a show on tv and one of the characters told a joke and since I’m a sucker for a good punch line, I tuned in.

How does a duck learn to fly?…

He just “wings” it!

Get it?

Like many things in my children’s lives, it made me think. How do you teach a duck to fly? How does a mother duck teach her little duckling to fly?

I know what you’re thinking. Ducks Brad? Seriously? Hang with me a moment.

Have you ever thought why a duck has to learn to fly? Other than being something that pretty much all birds do, it is critical part of what a duck is. If you live near any populations of ducks, you know firsthand that ducks are migratory birds, meaning that they move from region to region throughout the year for different phases of their life cycle. If they don’t migrate, which involves flying, they would die, or fail to reproduce. Flying is an essential aspect of ducks continuing to be ducks.

You know the phrase, “If it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck…(you can finish it).” Well, the same can be said in reverse, if it doesn’t fly, it’s not a duck, or at least it won’t be for long.

Ducks have an interesting approach to teach their young to fly. It’s kind of like a guess and test method. There is some modeling, some pushing them out of a nest, and some debrief. They don’t take flying classes, go through long orientations, and get certified in flight. It’s part of who they are to learn to fly.

How do we teach new believers to fly (and by fly, I mean share the gospel)? What we generally do is load them up with a bunch of information that we think they’ll need to share the gospel and mature in Christ. What we rarely do is model for them a lifestyle of evangelism and discipleship. When we do this, we suppress part of our DNA. An essential, and life-sustaining part of what it means to be a Jesus-follower is making other Jesus followers. When we fail to model and teach discipleship, we keep new believers from ever being ducks…or disciples. I’m confused now.

Brad Gouwens is the Student Pastor at Crossroads Bible Church in San Jose, CA. Check out his blog at Revival Generation.

HSM resident creative genius Parker Stech is pushing us in some incredible new directions. Here’s one example: this (video above) is how we’re encouraging students to take a next spiritual step through a touchscreen. Working on a way to get something like this out there for everyone to use … stay tuned.


Got this picture mail of a freshman student’s spiritual whiteboard this week – made my day. Just wanted to share it (sorry the pic is so small)!


A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam's Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.