Editor's Note: The following article is adapted from Fulfill Your *Student Ministry: A Manifesto and Field Guide.
Student ministry is in a bad way. But you already knew that, didn’t you? I could start out by turning a fire hose of depressing statistics on you like,
“The first 300 out of every 200 students that graduate out of your student ministry will fall away from the church by Thursday of their third week in college. Did you know that, student pastor?...DID YOU EVEN KNOW THAT??”
We’ve all heard those stats and their accompanying pep talks. I’ve never found them to be all that helpful or motivating, frankly. I suspect you haven’t either. The fact that you clicked on this post tells me you sense something isn’t quite right about Student Ministry and you don’t need some guy Gatlin gunning a bunch of stats at you until your eyes flip back into your head to figure it out. You know something has gone wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Or, maybe you have put your finger on it, but you need some confirmation.
In Fulfill Your *Student Ministry I and my fellow contributors seek to (1) winsomely argue and defend the ten articles that are found herein. (2) We aspire to aid local churches, pastors, and student pastors in their fledgling (or nonexistent!) efforts to calibrate their student ministry to the Biblical norms of a thriving, healthy local church. In other words, Student Ministry ought to be subordinate and take a supporting role in the local church. Student Ministry, at the end of the day, is not essential, but supplementary. It is very important, then, that our student ministries operate in light of the needs of the congregation as a whole.
In every chapter we seek to lay out a blueprint that is in keeping with its accompanying article. Wherever your church is on these articles, we pray the Lord will bless your church’s efforts to bring about biblical faithfulness. Furthermore, we pray our efforts assist you in bringing about maximal biblical health to your student ministry as it supplements, accents, and ultimately serves the congregation you are a member of.
Article I: A healthy student ministry values the gospel above all else and allows it to drive every element and aspect of the ministry rather than employing attractional forms of student ministry.
The Local Church
Article II: Healthy student ministries prioritize integrating students into the life of the church upon becoming covenant members because they carry the same responsibility and privileges as adult members. Baptism and church membership are not mere obligatory rites of passage but rather bring covenant responsibilities.
Article III: Healthy student ministries seek to cultivate a culture focused on life-on-life and one-on-one spiritual formation through Bible reading and prayer over event-driven and activities-based programs.
Article IV: Healthy student ministries choose to preach expositional sermons and series through biblical books instead of emphasizing games, videos, and topical series.
Article V: Healthy student ministries value student worship services that reflect the Sunday morning worship service of the church over entertainment-based programming.
Article VI: A healthy student ministry emphasizes a culture of repentance and sexual holiness rather than a legalistic or guilt-driven purity culture.
Short-Term Mission Trips
Article VII: A healthy student ministry values local and global mission trips that focus on intentionally sharing the gospel over mission trips that primarily emphasize construction and service projects.
Article VIII: A healthy student ministry elevates the parent’s role as primary discipler over the helpful but secondary roles of the student pastor and volunteers.
Article IX: A healthy student ministry pursues ethnic diversity as displayed in the book of Revelation over contentment with a monochromatic ministry
Article X: A healthy student ministry values training and mobilizing students to join the whole body in sharing the gospel over assuming students will naturally share the gospel on their own.
So, there you have it! How Biblically healthy is your student ministry? If the truths laid out in this manifesto, followed by the action steps laid in the chapters of Fulfill Your *Student Ministry are implemented in your church, then you will have a perceptibly more faithful student ministry and therefore church. We pray many who read this the book already have faithful student ministries that are healthily embedded in the life of the local church. We celebrate that! However, we also know that much of what is practiced in student ministries today is not pleasing to the Lord, and is not consistent with basic dictates of Scripture. May this manifesto, and the book more generally, go to serve the church and bring about greater ecclesial fidelity.