Where do you start in getting people on the same page? Within two months coming into my position of student pastor I quickly realized that many of my leaders had a heart for students and community. Though that might be a good thing, I also realized that the definition of student ministry and community was very different for each individual. At the same time we had just done a pancake push to recruit more leaders. With an updated roster containing more than 60 names the last thing I wanted to do was shake things up and lose leaders. I knew that clarity, direction and vision was desperately needed as we move ahead together in aligning our efforts to maximize our potential. We offered a vision lunch and 30 of our leaders showed up. Getting them on the same page, I gave them a vision statement and a student ministry handbook. While it may seem like shuffling papers at times, this stuff is a must for any ministry!
VISION. You need something short, simple, easy to remember but all encompassing to what you are about as a ministry. This vision should be a rally point for leaders and students alike. Anyone should be able to critique your programs, small groups, outreach nights, camps, retreats, etc. against your vision and see that they line up. What are you striving for in ministry? What is the end goal for your staff, leaders, volunteers, and students? Does it match your churches philosophy of ministry? I am still tweaking the statement, but this what we have landed on for now.
Get connected to God. Get connected to people. Stay connected to both.
If we were successful in doing this as a ministry I think the end result would be an alive and thriving student ministry. The following vision of student ministry was a benchmark that was passed on to me from Bobby Pruitt, my high school youth pastor.
Student ministry is not student ministry until the student is doing ministry.
My desire would be that my leaders understand that small groups, teaching, music, and dynamic programs are all good things but these things are not the end result we are chasing after. Student ministry is not a 4-7 year sprint spiritually, crossing the finish line when the student graduates high school. We pray the individual student will be equipped to take every opportunity for the rest of their lives starting in middle school to look to the interest of others and display the attitude of Jesus, as found in Philippians 2.
STUDENT MINISTRY HANDBOOK. I think phrasing it like that sounds a bit less constrictive than a policy manual or rules to follow…but it is what it sounds like. To both our veteran leaders of 8+ years and those new leaders just expressing interest, this handbook provides in greater detail how we are going to accomplish the vision. The handbook provides the reality of expected duties that a leader will sign off on claiming they understand we are on the same page. It contains specific serving role protocol along with descriptions, requirements/expectations of a leader/volunteer, and a section on child abuse protocol and procedure. Prior to going over sealing the deal with the handbook there is an online application they are asked to fill out that covers references and background checks. Here is a sample of our most current Student Ministry Handbook.
Here are a few things I think should be included in any handbook and discussed with any leader or volunteer serving in student ministry:
- A welcome letter.
- Vision statement.
- Their involvement in a community that is encouraging their personal spiritual walk. If they aren’t being poured into how can you expect them to pour into the lives of students?
- Age requirements of those serving. (I’ll write more on this later)
- Meeting with and driving students.
- Sleepovers and students at your house.
- Romantic relationships across the board.
- Child abuse policy and procedure.
- Be above reproach. This is a catch all phrase, holding leaders/volunteers to a higher standard to ensure both the safety of them and the student.
Get your ministry on the same page. Give them a vision to follow and handbook to go to when questions come up or they want to know where you stand on situations that will occur in ministry. Subscribe via email to lifeofayouthpastor.com in the upper right hand corner of this page.