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Measuring Success in Student Ministry

How your youth leaders are partnering with students' parents to make more and better teen disciples
By Jared Segerstrom

Do you have a favorite menial task? I find mowing the lawn to be especially relaxing. I love unwinding in the evenings by choosing a podcast, cranking up the mower, and tackling our .43 acres of dirt, grass, and way too much creeping Charlie.

In addition to the smell of freshly cut grass, one of the things I love most about mowing the lawn is that it’s easy to measure progress. I know I have mowed the lawn successfully if all the grass is cut! If I’m making mistakes or missing spots, it’s easily noticeable and can be corrected immediately.

Sometimes I wish I could measure success in ministry like I measure success in mowing the lawn. When dealing with people, though, we need to make sure to measure success according to the Bible’s definition.

As I have gained experience in student ministry, I have become more and more convinced that we gauge our success in student ministry not by the crowds we attract or the activities we plan, but by continued faithfulness to making more and better teen disciples.

Christ gave his followers clear instructions when he ascended to heaven:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

As a student ministry, we need to be faithfully teaching teens the Word of God, sharing the gospel and encouraging them to take important steps in their faith, and equipping them to make disciples of others. That is our mission. That is our standard of success in ministry.

But you might have noticed that student ministry isn’t the only disciple-making arena in a student’s life. In fact, the average student spends very little time each week “in” student ministry. Between Sunday school and Wednesday night youth group, the average youth leader gets about two hours a week with a student. If we are to help make disciples effectively, we must connect with other relationships in students’ lives.

I believe we make disciples best when we come alongside parents and families and encourage students to become committed members of the church. The better we can join forces with parents and the church body, the more effective we can be in making disciples.

Author Michael McGarry summarizes this relationship well in his book A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry:

“Youth ministry is for adolescence, the family is for life, and the church is for eternity. Biblically minded youth workers remember this constantly because they view their ministry as a bridge-building endeavor rather than as a destination.”

My prayer for our students is that they will graduate from our ministry loving Jesus and loving His church. While we can’t guarantee that outcome in the life of each teen, I do believe that by connecting our ministry to parents and the wider church ministry, we will see God do amazing things.

One practical way we want to strengthen the relationship between Soteria’s students and their families is through our Parent-Leader Touchpoints on March 9 (high school) and March 23 (middle school).

On these two nights, Soteria will not have regular Wednesday night ministries. Instead, we want to devote time for leaders and parents to connect and discuss the spiritual well-being of their students and how we can come alongside each other.

Parents can sign up for a 15-minute Parent-Leader Touchpoint via the links above for their high school and middle school students. My hope is that, after meeting, both leaders and parents will feel better equipped to care for our students. Establishing that relationship now will also provide opportunities for future conversations.

If you’re interested in learning more about our student ministry and our vision for making more and better disciples, please reach out to me. And, if you’re not in the “parenting teens” stage of life, would you commit to praying for the student ministry at Soteria?

May we always seek to measure success biblically by faithfulness to making disciples.

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