Danger: Trusting everything a student tells you. I know most dads want to think the very best about their student. So, for example, if (insert your student’s name) says that they are reading their Bible, most dads take that for face value. When what the student really may be saying is that they are spending one minute looking at the Bible so that they can tell their dad they are reading their Bible.

Solution: Actually engage your student in conversation. Talk with them. Ask questions. Probe the statement they are making. In every arena. Not just Bible reading, but talk with about school, and other activities. Take time to go have Starbucks, cast a line, or go for a drive time and really talk to them. They need it. You need it! This is a form of spiritual protection…knowing about your student.

Danger: Spiritual health is just another aspect of our busy life. Corporate worship, Christian fellowship, and Christian accountability are just other items on our long list of things that we do. In fact, we typically do those things when we don’t have anything else to do (homework, sports practices/games, family trips, attending sporting events, etc…). Students are taught through this behavior that spiritual health is something that we are ultimately concerned with when we have nothing else to do.

Solution: Make spiritual health a priority for your family and its members. Don’t miss corporate worship. Don’t allow your students to make excuses for missing church (i.e. no one else is going, I have too much homework, I have a game, etc..) There are certainly occasions when families miss church (which should be rare). The idea is to promote the importance of Christian fellowship and accountability. When you are forced to be out of town as a family, find a church to attend on Sunday mornings. Communicate to your students that they cannot be involved in extracurricular activities that draw you as a family away from church by playing/performing on Sundays. This reinforces the fact that our spiritual health is the ultimate priority in your family. This too is spiritual protection!

Danger: Tell them what they should be doing, but don’t model it in your own life. They need to see it in you! When is the last time your students saw you tell yourself “No” to something? Yes, you tell them no to things (which by the way is, in many cases, the right thing to do), but they never see you telling yourself “no” for the sake of the gospel and glory of the Lord. In my opinion, this is the greatest exposure to spiritual danger for students. A hypocrite. If there is one thing that a student can recognize and see instantly it’s a hypocrite. Satan can use that to either push them totally away from the faith or damage their faith significantly.

Solution: Students need genuineness. They need to see you talk a big game and live a big game for Christ. They need you to be open and honest with them. They need to know areas in which you struggle and when you mess up (you will!) they need you to man up to your mistakes, ask the Lord and your family for forgiveness, and commit to doing better for the glory of God. Too many dads either don’t allow their students to see who they really are (which makes them hypocrites in the eyes of their students) or they simply aren’t really who they say they are (which is the definition of a hypocrite).

Tony Richmond is the High School Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller in Keller, Texas.

I want my students to like me! I really do. I hope to gain the trust, confidence, and “right” to speak into the lives of my students about important spiritual matters, but I realize that doesn’t come free. Hanging out with them at Sonic after school, going to eat chicken rings with them at their school lunches (how in the world does chicken become rings?), attending their choir concerts, talent shows, band recitals, and athletics events are all ways that I can show my students that I care about my relationship with them. Depending on the depth of those relationships and the number of students in my ministry, I could spend countless hours growing these relationships. It costs a lot of time for me to show my students that I truly care about their lives.

But is that enough? Is it enough for me to care about the lives of my students and have them be aware of it? Allow me to answer my own question…that depends on what I believe God has actually called me to do. All of those activities may be enough if God has called me to be a mentor or to develop moral people. You mean to tell me that you can sacrifice all of those hours outside of your “office hours”, away from your family, listening to some pretty amateur band music, and cheering on your freshman boys in a basketball game that ends in 14-12, and that still may not be enough. The problem is that God has called us to guide our students spiritually, not simply influence their life. God has called us to pastor/shepherd our students’ spirits. To guide their spirit means much more than spending quality time with them. Don’t get me wrong, quality time is important and necessary, it’s just not enough.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Psalm 19:7 Our students’ souls need constant revival. That revival cannot come from our relationship with them; they need spiritual revival and growth that is only found in His revealed Self, found in his Word. Shepherding our students requires us to understand and completely surrender to the fact that their relationship with God is infinitely more important than their relationship with me. They don’t NEED to know me, they NEED to know God. Their relationship with God is not found in the number of hours that you spend during a given week developing a relationship with your students; it is found in the number of hours that your students spend in their Bible learning about their God. The way for them to know God is to know his Word. Knowing God leads to life transformation and revival.

Let’s face it, how many of your students maintain a close relationship with you five years after they leave your ministry? Statistics (a student pastor’s worst nightmare) suggest that many of our students not only dissolve their relationship with their student pastor after leaving the student ministry, they dissolve their entire relationship with God. The purpose of this article is not to figure out all of the dynamics at work that explain that trend, however it points back to the foundational question, what is enough? The key to developing students that are more likely to maintain their relationship with the Lord is to develop Bible-hungry students through a Bible-hungry student ministry.

A Bible-hungry student ministry cannot exist without a Bible-hungry student pastor. I know there are thousands of things that compete for your time. There are always notes to write, emails to send, students to disciple, and meetings to attend; however, a student pastor’s time with the Lord in his Word is critical. The model that you set for your students is determined by what you value. Make sure to set a high value on your daily consumption of God’s Word. “More desirable than gold, than much fine gold. Sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10

Expository teaching ensures that a student’s relationship with God through his Word is emphasized as greater than a student’s relationship with their student pastor. Simply put, expository teaching is the careful drawing out of the exact meaning of a passage in its original context leading to contemporary application. Instead of brainstorming a topic and finding a passage that speaks to what you are attempting to communicate, expository teaching uses the text of the Scripture to drive the series of lessons. By allowing the text to drive the series of lessons you are allowing God to speak using the structure of his Word, not your creativity to think up topics that the students need to hear. This type of teaching also teaches your students to learn to study the Bible for themselves. Just like you would not encourage your students to flip open to a random verse and apply it without studying its context, don’t model that wrong behavior in your method of teaching!

“God’s Word is vital in developing an on-going relationship with Him.” Don’t just tell it to your students, model it for them.

Tony Richmond is the High School/College Student Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller.

As student pastors/workers the more spiritual encouragement that is being done, the more life change evident in our students lives, the more dedicated our students are becoming to their Savior, days of discouragement are inevitable. It reminds you of that movie where everything seems to be going too good to be true so you are just waiting for that axe murderer, fatal car crash, or plot-changing catastrophe to throw a wrench in the storyline. In ministry, discouragement is waiting to disrupt, oppress, and hinder our plans. We should expect it, after all Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble.” So, we should be prepared for these seasons of discouragement, even in ministry. Here’s how:

Identify the Source of Discouragement

Words of Criticism: Picture that playground bully that seems to always poke fun at the smaller, weaker, and unathletic (that’s me) students. People are going to throw stones at you and the funny thing is, you can’t do anything about it! As long as you are doing the will of the Father, people will oppose with critical words. I recently heard about a small, rural church in western Kentucky that had one heck of a revival service. They saw 5 come to Christ in salvation out of a group of only 13. The spirit was moving in that place and after the service as the pastor took his customary spot at the back door greeting the members as they left, Mrs. Gladys approached. The pastor obviously stoked from the great response to the gospel greeted Mrs. Gladys with a smile and said, “That was awesome wasn’t it Mrs. Gladys.” Mrs. Gladys responded with an opposing affect, she was obviously upset. The pastor inquired about her demeanor and she went on to explain that the whole service was a nightmare because the American flag and the Christian flag were respectively located on the wrong sides of the stage. The mysterious thing about it is that God desires some of those Mrs. Gladys’ to be in your life. These people under the allowance of God are refining your ministry through their criticism and causing you to become more Christ-like. (James 1:2-4)

Open Hostility: It is one thing when people throw stones from the side lines. It is another when they come onto the field of play and threaten your ministry. Some discouragement takes the bully from poking fun to literally poking you with his fists or your head in a toilet. Hopefully, none of you have ever experienced that kind of discouragement; however, in ministry there will most likely be those who come to discourage by taking an active role in sabotaging your ministry. For whatever reason, they want to see you fail and are committed to making that happen.

Make Sure You Have the Proper Response

Take your burden straight to God. You and I don’t naturally run to God when these times of discouragement come up. In our flesh we either bottle it up (which leads to ulcers or depression) or we involve a web a people that don’t need to be involved. We pick up a phone or send and email and say, “Listen to what So-and-so just did….Don’t do that, take it directly to God!

Take time to evaluate if any criticism is true. Learn from your critics. In most every criticism there is a bit of truth. “Yes, Mrs. Gladys the flags are indeed on the wrong side of the stage translates” into “These people notice the details.” How can they be blown away by God’s love through the details?

Take action. Don’t just sit on the sidelines awaiting for God to “smite” the discouragers out of your ministry. Do something. If I find out tomorrow that I have cancer, I am going to pray that God miraculously heals me on the way to the oncologist. In times of war, I am going to pray for the peace of God to reign down on our world, but I am going to pay my taxes so that we can have some tanks! Trust in God and take action. In other words, continue in ministry. Keep plugging away. Keep serving faithfully. Ask God for wisdom and press on!
Be encouraged in discouragement. It makes us better pastor/workers, it makes us better servants, it makes us better followers of Jesus!

Tony Richmond is the High School Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller in Keller, Texas.