Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:

1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.

2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.

3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.

4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.

5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.

Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?

Thanks to VSG for this guest post! They are currently searching for Student Pastors who are dynamic leaders in a few churches like this one in NV and this one in GA.

I’ve spent 12 years serving as a staff pastor at two different churches. Both experiences have been unique, positive, and challenging. I don’t plan on ever being a lead pastor, so I’ll spend my entire career serving on a staff rather than leading one.

If you are a staff pastor, no job is ever 100% secure. Things happen, economy has its ups and downs but there are four strategic things you can do to make yourself an indispensable staff pastor.

1. Find the most important objective your pastor wants to accomplish and put yourself in the middle of it.

–Volunteer to lead a task force to accomplish the objective.

–Be a good listener. For instance, if you hear frustration from him on why the church has a low retention rate for visitors, make note of it and take initiative to help craft a solution.

2. Make strategic connections for your pastor.

–Make sure these relationships are life-giving and not things that give him more work.

–Make sure they are strategic and contribute to accomplishing his present objectives or future dreams.

3. Bring more solutions than problems.

–When you see a problem, it’s tempting to let your pastor know right away about it. Instead, stop and brainstorm solutions. When you tell him the problem, offer several ideas to solve the problem. And when you offer your ideas, volunteer to be a part of the solutions.

4. Think team, not silo.

–Don’t always talk about your needs or your budget. Instead, offer to sacrifice for other team members or departments. Find ways you can show your ministry is not singular in focus but recognizes it’s part of the whole. For example, your youth leadership team can volunteer to do all the set-up for a children’s ministry event.

–Offer to evaluate other ministries. If you’re a respected youth pastor with good relationships with other staff members, volunteer to spend one Sunday a quarter going to the kids’ church and give tips on making it a better experience.

We don’t become indispensable by jockeying for power or claiming our rights, but by humbly and intentionally serving our pastor and our team.

Justin Lathrop is a youth worker and the founder of Help Staff Me. In January 2011 Help Staff Me and Vanderbloemen Search Group united in an effort to serve the church with all their staffing needs. Whether it is a Jr. High pastor or a Lead Pastor we are equipped to meet your staffing needs.