LIVE IT: Documenting our Journey

The following is an article from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

I recently had a discussion with some high school students about whether or not I was going to lock up their cell phones during our week long summer mission trip. They listed many reasons to keep their phones, but the one that surprised me most was their desire to be able to “check-in” to all the landmark locations we will be visiting while away.

Cell phones have become a modern day “Captain’s Log” documenting significant events, adventures and discoveries along life’s journey. In my new role as the LIVE IT Director for Youth Unlimited, I have been considering how our students log their spiritual journeys and what locations they’ll remember as the landmarks of their spiritual adventures.

Those of us who grew up without a cell phone can recall a specific service trip where our faith grew outside of our comfort zone or a youth convention where we discovered how our talents and abilities fit into God’s Kingdom.

Today, LIVE IT is an “unconventional youth convention” where students learn about their value in Christ while exploring how to use their talents to spread God’s love to their friends, community and world. By pairing students with like-minded peers and adults, they will see how God created them with a purpose so much greater than self-gratification. By offering different tracks in athletics, arts and service, students will recognize how each person comes to the table with their own personality, interests and God-given talents. Within each track they’ll learn spiritual disciplines to help discover how their voice helps create the body of Christ. Students are also challenged to return home and use what they’ve experienced at LIVE IT to spread God’s love throughout our communities and our world.

On July 30, 2017, hundreds of students and adults will converge in Estes Park, Colorado for LIVE IT 2017. It is my prayer that during this five-day event, students and adults will document deep in their hearts and minds their tremendous value in Christ. That they will discover their unique talents and abilities necessary for the building of God’s Kingdom. Most of all, I pray that LIVE IT 2017 will be more than just another place where students “check-in” but that it will be a place that will launch them into the next phase of their journey with Christ… And if they happen to have their cell phones with them, I hope they check-in, tweet and Instagram every adventure, every discovery and every new friend they meet, and that they tag it all with #LiveIt2017!

A Thread in the Tapestry

The following is an excerpt from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

A Thread in the Tapestry

by Kyle De Boer

Joining forces for the third straight year, three Montana congregations are collaborating to host Gallatin Valley SERVE. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse gifts. Farmers and ranchers work side-by-side with educators and entrepreneurs. The unique community of volunteers for GV SERVE is the locale in which youth and adults offer their gifts for something greater than themselves. SERVE volunteers and participants are the needed characters in a much larger, gospel-centered story of love and transformation.

Youth are an integral part of Gallatin Valley SERVE. Consider a large tapestry—one larger than the size of a tall Dutch man! This aesthetically pleasing piece of art conveys a message as you soak in its magnitude. Step a little closer, and you begin to notice the detail of this magnificent work. Step even closer yet, and you notice how small strands of thread comprise this masterpiece. Students are some important strands of the thread that comprise GV SERVE.

Before GV SERVE came into existence, three “youth”, functioning as adult leaders, led a group on SERVE to Sioux Falls, SD. Ranging from 22 to 25 years old at the time, these three individuals returned to the Gallatin Valley with a conviction to host SERVE. Support for SERVE quickly expanded to include: area councils, high school students and many adults. Preparations were underway.

Since the inception, youth keep the pulse of GV SERVE beating, possibly even racing! On our day away, students want to summit a mountain. Their effort to conquer the high elevation is motivation for our adults to keep up! Students can step out of their comfort zone in order to engage the opportunities that are part of Montana. Conversation around the supper table can get quite loud in the Fellowship Hall as stories of relationships and service are swapped. Singing, clapping and dancing are expressed in evening worship, in both a church sanctuary and an alpine shoreline. Students from different churches in Montana join with peers from across North America to enter into a story that is much greater than themselves. All the while, adult volunteers and leaders have the privilege of learning from and growing with these important strands of thread.

I have the privilege of seeing both youth and adults integrate their gifts with Christ’s work in Montana. GV SERVE keeps the eyes of our Host Churches open to our community. With wide eyes, our congregations are able to engage the Gallatin Valley in continued and new ways because of the SERVE participants. However, the Gallatin Valley is only a small part of the large tapestry that God is weaving.

Youth are empowered at SERVE to live a transformed life of love and service at home. After seeing a new community and joining in Kingdom service during SERVE, adults and students have an opportunity to enter God’s redemptive story in their church, community and family. Some SERVE participants return home to provide support for a local non-profit. Some seek reconciliation with a parent or friend. Others allow the grace of Christ to shape their view of self.

Gallatin Valley SERVE has taught us that whether we are on SERVE or at home, we can continue to offer ourselves as thread, purposed and placed by the master weaver, Jesus Christ.

To connect with Gallatin Valley SERVE, click here to visit their Facebook page.

An Open Letter to Our Graduating Seniors

Dear High School Seniors,

It’s here! Your long-awaited, joy-filled, nerve-racking day is finally here! You are graduating from high school, and today we are certain you’re looking back saying, “Wait, where did the time go?!”

Oh seniors, there are so many things we want to tell you, it’s hard to know where to begin. Your life is such an adventure; each day ordained by God. In the days to come, you will know trial, pain, loss and grief. But more than these things, you will know peace, love, comfort, joy and hope beyond what you can even imagine.

God’s plans for you are so much bigger than you can comprehend, and this is only the beginning of a long period of looking back and being amazed at what God has done. Take this moment; take this day to stand in awe of his faithfulness to you over the last 18 years. The things God has brought you through, the doors he has opened for you and the passions he has placed on your heart are the opposite of small.

Perhaps as you look back you feel a mix of things. There are seasons where your life looks more like a battlefield than a safe haven. You have known loss and trial beyond what any 18 year old should know. You are in his hands, and yes, he IS working all things together for your good. There is time for things to improve. He has an amazing plan for YOU.

In other seasons, looking back is sweet. God has filled your life with joy and good things. Rejoice in what he has done and the ways he has provided! Know that every good and perfect gift is from above, and praise him for how gentle he has been with your heart. Use this season to pursue him more, so that when trials come, you have a solid rock to stand on.

Seniors, we want you to know how much we have loved you. Our prayer for you is that you go forth into the world in confidence and hope; knowing his ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts are higher than your thoughts.

We are so proud of you. You have accomplished much; you have amazed yourself, your parents and us through your service, love, commitment and growth. You’ve been leaders this year through your words and actions. As you step into new adventures, be they college, work or missions, know that we are right behind you, cheering you on and believing in you more than you’d ever think possible.

We are having a hard time letting you go. You’ve brought us joy, laughter, life and love. You’ve led us into a deeper knowledge and revelation of God; you’ve driven us into the throne room for intercession, and you’ve shown us what it means to live in wonder of God. Your leadership in your schools and youth group has inspired us to say “yes” to the Kingdom more, and you’ve blessed us beyond what you’ll ever know.

As you step into a new season of life, know that we are never far away. In your youth leaders, you will always have a confidant, a prayer warrior and a friend. God goes before you; do not be afraid.

With all our love,
Your youth leaders

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Learn about our SERVE high school summer mission trips.

He Delights in Using Young People

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.” Joel 2:28-29

Sometimes we forget I’m not old enough to rent a van…or drive a rental van, for that matter.

I started leading a youth group at the age of 19. Being just months older than a handful of my students was daunting at best, terrifying at worst. For every time a student questioned my authority, I questioned my own authority five times. I really did not have a clue, and now in my second year of youth ministry, I can confidently assert that I still have absolutely no clue how this came to pass in my life.

I’m still a baby in the faith, honestly. I made the commitment to serve God with my life five years ago this summer, and though I am a theology student at a brilliant private college, I find each day I have more questions about who God is and what he is doing than I did before I started.

My church is made up of young leadership. We have a young pastor, a young worship leader and a young youth leader. This has its negative aspects, for sure, but there are certainly some amazing positives.

I often feel like I have an incredible advantage because of my youth. The insider perspective I have on youth culture helps me to have grace for the students’ situations, however large or small they may be. This gives me grace to be an advocate for them, an advocate to their parents and an advocate before the throne of Jesus to intercede for them. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

I love to watch my students grow. I love to grow with them. I love that we are all new to this “follower of Jesus” thing and I love that we are asking the same questions. I love that we are asking different questions.

I love that Jesus delights in using young people, as messy, confused and fallible as we are. I love that his Spirit is poured out on all of us, men, women, young and old – he holds nothing back in his outpouring of revelation. I love that he is raising up a new generation of leaders, and that, for some crazy reason, he decided to give me a front row seat to the most beautiful journey I could ever imagine.

What Teens Need

by Amanda Roozeboom

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here

There is a lot of discussion regarding the “Needs of Adolescence”. Most scholars agree that teens need: love, security, community, purpose, creative expression, achievement, structure/clear limits, self-definition and confidence/self-worth. Chap Clark summarizes it this way, “Teens need Identity, (Who am I), Autonomy (Do my choices matter) Belonging (Where do I fit)”.

I would add teens need a faith that lasts beyond high school! In Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian, her research found that teens with “consequential faith”, faith that lasted beyond high school, had four characteristics: a God-Story, Community, Calling (purpose) and Hope.

Teens need a God-Story. Dean describes teens that have a “God Story” as; “Christian teenagers who referred to their faith frequently, interpreted their lives in religious terms, or grasped their faith traditions’ primary teachings also had a ready religious vocabulary at their disposal.” There is power in testimony. Kids will speak as we speak! Youth workers need to make sure that we are equipping our teens for life-long faith by passing down a clear and vibrant faith vocabulary.

Teens need a Community. Teens will find community in parties, in school activities, in sports, in online gaming communities, etc. As youth workers, we need to make sure our teens are also finding community in our sanctuaries during Sunday worship, in our main youth group sessions, on service/mission trips and in youth convention experiences.

Teens need a Calling (purpose). They need a place where they can contribute, a place where their voice matters. Youth workers therefore need to be advocates for our teens. We need to give them opportunities to lead prayers on Sundays, help make a committee decision or choose the color of the youth room walls! I love the part in C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when young Lucy asks the Beaver if the godlike figure Aslan is safe, “Safe? Said Mr. Beaver…Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He is the King, I tell you.” Let’s strive to give teens a calling worthy of the King!

Finally, teens need Hope. Young people look to adults for meaning and hope. They need us to model a theology marked by patience, determination and humility as we face challenging research that causes us to question who we thought we were. This world needs adults who model hope as Kierkegaard described hope – “leaping in expectation”. Do we joyfully “leap to faith” not because we are faithful, or our ministries are faithful – but because our God is faithful?

Our teens have many needs. It is our job, as adults, to actively engage in fulfilling their need for a life-long faith. Join me in striving to give our teens God-Stories, Community, Calling and Hope.

Faces of ThereforeGo – Winter 2016

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 Magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here

Aaron Au

Q. Where could we find you at 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning?

A. One of the incredible Farmer’s Markets that we have in Edmonton. I love the local produce and goods.

Q. What’s your favorite place to meet with students, and why?

A. I often meet students (or anyone for that matter) at our local, neighbourhood coffee shop, the Carrot Arts Coffeehouse. Our neighbourhood plays such an integral role in the lives of my wife and me and our church plant and the Carrot is one of the hubs of our neighbourhood. In a community that is struggling to overcome poverty and crime, it’s fun to bring people into a warm, safe, inviting place and show them what our neighbourhood is really about!

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. I’ve been loving the many resources that Tim Keller has on the Gospel in Life website and their new YouTube channel. I’m learning how, as a church planter, the message I preach and the ministry I live has to be grounded in the truth and expressed in love and grace in a way that makes sense for the culture we’re in and connects with people’s hearts.

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. I love my sports! I play goalie in ice hockey and also enjoy cheering for the Blue Jays.

Annika Bangma

Q. Where could we find you at 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning?

A. On my family’s farm, having coffee with my husband, parents, and grandfather – and planning out weekend projects; which could include anything from fixing fences, to mucking out a chicken coop, to refinishing antique furniture.

Q. What do you do to stay relevant to youth?

A. I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, I don’t have to do much to “stay relevant”. I simply need to form caring relationships with students and they will KEEP me relevant (and they are also quick to let me know when I’m missing the mark)! In practice, this means taking a caring but “unknowing” stance and letting them see that I am actively looking to learn about their world – asking them things that aren’t immediately obvious to me about their choices, likes/dislikes, etc.; and showing up at the events they are involved in (concerts, games, etc.).

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. The list of ThereforeGo Serve Outcomes. 2016 will be the first summer that our church is hosting Serve in many years, and we are utilizing the Outcomes to set the tone for our entire ministry year.

Q. Where would you like to travel someday?

A. My husband and I have a goal of visiting every United States National Park in our lifetime. Sixteen down, forty-three to go!

Natasha Veder

Q. What do you do to stay relevant to youth?

A. I talk to my own youth! It’s more important to me to know what my own students are into than the general teen population, so I find out what movies they’re watching, what music they listen to and attend some of their sports games and school performances.

Q. Where could we find you at 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning?

A. The first place you’d want to look would be my couch or kitchen at home. If I’m not there, check my local independent coffee shop, a nearby thrift store or I might be hiking one of BC’s beautiful mountains!

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Q. What is one website that you visit every day?

A. Facebook – I get world news updates, updates on my students lives, learn about youth ministry resources from my colleagues in other churches and can keep in touch one-on-one or in small groups with my students.

Finding the Missing Link at Live It

by Tony Butler

Spring Antioch Baptist Church

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 Magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here

Our mission at Spring Antioch Baptist Church is to help our youth grow into what God wants them to be. We desire for them to first know who God is for themselves. But we also want to show them how to experience God in their everyday lives. Our lessons and our activities are geared to help them see God for who he is.

Through an organization called the Old Town Spring Heights Task Force, which is made up of churches of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures, we met Brandon Bajema of the New life Christian Reformed Church. He told us of an organization called Youth Unlimited that had ministry geared towards growing youth in Christ. At first, I was really skeptical because we had been to conferences before and left them with nothing and felt robbed, but Brandon was persistent in getting our youth to Live It. Eventually, my pastor and I decided it would be a good thing for our youth. We registered and waited in anticipation.

All along the way from Houston to Chicago on our trip to Live It, I looked at the kids and wondered if they will get something from this experience. Would they be challenged to grow on their level of understanding? Would they be ready for such a radical introduction to something this new to them? All kinds of questions ran through my mind, but I realized that it was more of an issue for me than it was for them.

After two days of travel, we arrived at Live It and immediately felt God’s presence. As we exited the van our kids began introducing themselves to every youth in sight. My wife, Vanessa, and I sat back and simply marveled in what we saw. This was just the beginning of what was to come. As we registered, it began to sink in as the spirit of excellence in which Youth Unlimited operated in began to shine through. If there was a problem, it was handled with a smile and heart felt action. My wife and I were blown away yet again.

I’ll be honest; the first night of worship was a little awkward for our youth. They had never had worship that was so free and it took a little getting used to but they caught on. By the end of the service they had their hands raised and were giving praise. This was another milestone accomplished and the bar was set.

The next day was track time. Myself, my wife and two of our youth took the leadership track. We also had one youth in the service track, one in the arts track and two in the athletics track. The leadership track took my mind to another level on the first day. Our teacher and her staff gave us what I didn’t expect. I expected to get a lesson about following certain steps to become a good leader, but we spent the week learning to get ourselves in order, so that we can be effective. Our teacher’s transparency and candor were refreshing. She showed us that you have to be genuine because youth will sniff out a fake in a minute. We were encouraged to learn to spend more time alone with God in order to hear what he has to say for us to do. It was sad to see the end of an experience like this draw near. A class like this has never touched me before. My wife Vanessa was encouraged beyond belief. The two youth, Tony Jr. and Jeremy that were in class with us were changed and I saw the change in them. It was truly awesome.

One of our youth, Michael, who took the arts track, could not believe his experience. He was challenged to stop holding back on his singing for God. He was shy before the class but his newfound confidence changed that.

One of our youth, Leon, who took the service track, had an eye-opening experience. He was shy and really didn’t talk to people he didn’t know. However, from working and reaching out while on work sites, he was changed. He now meets no stranger and is ready for whatever comes his way.

The last two of our youth we brought, Da’Vean and Jade, both took the athletics track. They were not expecting to be challenged in something they were good at, but the challenge was not physical, it was spiritual. It made them see, as believers, there is more to everything we do than what we see.

The biggest plus of the whole experience was the beautiful people we met and still have contact with. The kids made friends they still chat and text with. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many different denominations and ethnic backgrounds coming from different places in Canada and the United States loving God together. We were touched in ways that just blew our minds.

Live it proved it was not just another conference, but a life changing experience. It helps to get you and your youth’s focus towards Jesus, where it should be, which I’ve felt is the missing link in many conferences I have been to. They point to heaven, but not to Christ. I will guarantee that our youth will be attending more Youth Unlimited events because this experience has made a great difference in their lives.

Now I Know

by Tim Ryan
Director of Junior High Ministries
West Shore Evangelical Free Church

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 Magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

I was blessed with the opportunity to take a group of senior high student mentors and special needs students to the Fruitland Special Needs Serve in July. As a youth pastor, I’ve had many opportunities to take students on mission trips, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like a Special Needs Serve!

First, we experienced the embrace of the entire church family. I was personally blown away by the commitment to the success of the week by a large portion of the church body. They had thought of every little detail and were so sensitive to the needs of the visiting team members throughout the week. As I talked with one of the host church volunteers, I discovered that he and his wife had taken the entire week off from work so they and their two girls could serve our team through transportation, meal preparation, small group lessons and more!

As the week progressed, it became apparent that many others in that small church had made tremendous sacrifices to make it all happen. Everyone on our team felt cared for—as if we were visiting family for the entire week! This was evident when Adam, one of my students, was referring to the hosts as brother, sister, mom and dad!

The host team also did a phenomenal job finding worksites that were very meaningful; yet adaptable to special needs team members. It was a joy to watch special needs students and their student peer mentors working side-by-side helping ministries do the work of Jesus’ hands and feet. In some cases, that meant sorting and prepping eyeglasses and hygiene supplies for shipment around the world. In other cases, it meant preparing fresh produce and packaged foods for distribution in the community. In every case, we were blessed to learn more about the agencies we worked with and the impact they make for God’s Kingdom.

On our last night, our site leader asked the peer mentors to finish the statement, “I used to think ______, but now I know _______” (regarding students with special needs). The answers that my students gave to that one question alone spoke volumes to just how deeply God used the week of Serve to stretch and grow their faith. One student related how previously she thought that students with special needs couldn’t really fully understand God or worship him in a deep or meaningful way. Now, as a result of her special needs Serve experience, she knows that students with special needs are blessed by God to connect with him directly without many of the self-conscious barriers that she came to recognize in her own relationship with God.

Toward the end of the long van ride home, I asked the students about next year. Every single one expressed a desire to do it again if they have the opportunity!

Join the Ripple

Most people can point to a moment of impact that changed their lives forever. That moment of impact is the moment people begin to live, interact, see the world and believe differently. It’s not uncommon for an individual’s moment of impact to form a ripple effect, and further impact the lives of others, who then impact the lives of others and so on.

At Youth Unlimited, we’re continuously and gratefully amazed by the impact made for and by Christ at experiences like Serve and Live It. We’re blessed to have seen first-hand at these events the impactful moments in individual students’ lives and the ripple effect that stems from these moments into a beautiful tapestry of churches assisting churches, building the Kingdom of God.

Youth Unlimited’s Serve and Live It events are not about a one-week experience. They’re about the impact and the ripple effect that ensues. They’re about the student from London, Ontario who spends a week in Houston, Texas and returns home convicted of her call to share the gospel with her friends. They’re about the couple in California who saw the impact Live It made on their own children many years ago and how they’ve grown because of that impact, and continues to invest in the organization so that someone else’s children might be impacted similarly. They’re about the church in Holland, Michigan who returned home from their Serve experience in Washington D.C. and saw both the need and a way to meet the need in their own congregation/community for a food pantry.

Youth Unlimited’s Serve and Live It experiences are about the church, who helps the church, who helps the church, and so on, and that ripple can begin with the impact of a single student.

One Serve participant said, “To see the grateful faces of the many people we helped was eye-opening. It just goes to show that every small, helpful action can have an impact on someone’s life. This trip helped me realize that there are not only problems in places thousands of miles away, but that there are empty, longing hearts wanting to be filled right here in my own community.”

Another Serve participant reflected, “Through just this past week, I have found what it really means to be free—to be so free in Jesus Christ that I feel like I have to tell the world. Serve changed my life and got me back on track. Praise God!”

At Youth Unlimited, we’re humbled and blessed to play a role in creating a space for the ripple effect of impactful moments to begin. With your financial donation, you, too, can be a part of creating that space. You can help impact the course of a student’s life, who has the ability to impact his/her congregation and community in big ways, who have the ability to impact other congregations and communities as well.

Would you join the ripple with us and make an impact?

Humbled to make an impact with you,

Jeff Kruithof

Executive Director

Youth Unlimited

Why Use ThereforeGo?

The following is an excerpt from the ThereforeGo Fall Magazine. To read more, click here.

Life Changing – the single most important thing that can happen in a student’s life is that they form a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ and commit to living for him.

In a world so full of noise and distractions, ThereforeGo’s SERVE mission experiences are incredibly effective at creating the space for students to encounter Jesus. We have testimony after testimony from students saying their SERVE experience was the moment in time when they first came to understand Jesus’ love, grace and desire for a personal relationship.

Because these experiences can be such an integral point in a student’s life, ThereforeGo is committed to having the following values as essential components of every one of our experiences: worship, reading scripture, introducing students to our broken world that needs Jesus, serving in the name of Jesus, fostering healthy adult/student relationships and encouraging students to live their life for Jesus.

In order to make this happen, ThereforeGo works with a team – the SERVE mission experience is not created in some office and then packaged and sent to 30 different host sites across Canada and the United States. Each SERVE site is created and led by a planning team of volunteers who live, worship, work and raise their families in the community you will be serving.

Prepared & Organized – Each planning team is trained and equipped by the ThereforeGo staff, and each February, all of the teams come together to be trained, share best practices, network and worship together. During this weekend, there is also a lot of celebration for what God has done over the past year and a lively discussion about the coming year! Many of our planning teams have been hosting SERVE for years. From the lessons learned over 25 years of offering Serve and the sharing of best practices by all the planning teams, every site is well prepared and organized. From the speakers, worship teams, community life, food and meaningful worksites, we will provide a great experience for you and your students!

Intentional – Each SERVE site also uses and teaches from the same theme and devotional material. The 2016 material was written by the next generation of church leaders, students from Calvin Theological Seminary. To ensure it connected with students, they tested it by teaching it to a church youth group and then adjusted it according to how it connected with them. The material focuses on Mark’s Gospel, allowing students to see how Jesus Christ, walking through everyday life, identified in people and communities both the hurtful bruises this world has left on them and the incredible image of God in them and how they can do the same in their lives.

Customizable – If you feel your group could better benefit from the SERVE experience in a different way (i.e. for larger groups, those looking to build their own group dynamic, those planning a multi-generational trip or any others in a unique situation), customizing SERVE gives you the chance to set dates, modify the schedule, lead your own worship sessions, etc. while ThereforeGo supplies the key values found in all of our faith-forming experiences.

What does a SERVE day look like?

7:00 AM – Breakfast/Prepare Lunches | 8:00 AM – Devotions | 8:45 AM – Leave for Worksites

4:00 PM – Showers/Free Time | 6:00 PM – Dinner | 7:30 PM – Evening Session

9:00 PM – Small Group Discussion | 10:00 PM – Snack and Free Time | 11:00 PM – Lights Out

Stepping Out of Student Ministry

The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry

Three years ago I stepped away from student ministry in a local church setting into my current position as the director of LifeWay Student Ministries. I had been a student pastor for 13 years and I was having the time of my life at an incredible church in Hampton, Virginia. It was one of those situations that you don’t just walk away from.

Over the last couple of years many of my friends have also transitioned out of student ministry into other roles. Some are pastors, others church planters, associate pastors, next generation pastors, young adult pastors, you name it and they’ve transitioned into it. All of them were in healthy situations where they were making an impact, and have made healthy transitions to these other positions.

This leads me to the question of the day. Not just today, but a question that has been asked of me many days throughout the last three years and a question that has been pondered frequently among those who have been in student ministry for a while.

When is it time to step out of student ministry?

I would like to admit up front that I don’t think there’s a concrete answer for this question. There’s no magic formula that you can use at the end of this blog to find out if you should step out of student ministry into another role. A current reality in student ministry is that we live in a day where the tenure of a student pastor seems short. I’m not referring to church switching here (different issue altogether), but the actual time that someone spends as a student pastor. It saddens me to think of how many “student pastors” are just using the student position as a catapult to something “greater.” Student ministry isn’t a stepping stone. If you are treating it as such, just go do what you’re really called to do.

Back to our question: when is it time to step out of student ministry? I think the best way to answer this question is to give you some observations from my own experience, and the experiences of others that I’ve gleaned from countless conversations with people who have made healthy transitions out of student ministry.

Observation 1: Healthy transition often comes when you aren’t seeking the transition on your own.

Observation 2: There are seasons of growth, and there aren’t. Being in one of the non-growth seasons doesn’t mean that you’re washed up and should leave student ministry. It IS a time that you can use to evaluate process, strategy, and vision.

Observation 3: Age isn’t a factor in this decision. Restructuring around where you are in life is always something to consider. For example, leading a student ministry when you have multiple children looks different than when it is just you or you and your spouse.

Observation 4: There will always be people who disagree with you and these people shouldn’t determine God’s call on your life.

Observation 5: Your response to authority says more about your own relationship with the Lord than it does about the leadership of your boss. Translation: leaving student ministry because of a bad relationship with your pastor is not the first option. There are many steps you can take before you get to that point.

Observation 6: The work is always going to be hard, and there’s always going to be a lot of it. This is true because what you’re doing is meaningful and when you consider the end goal of reaching and discipling the next generation, we should work hard at it.

Observation 7: As a student pastor you are serving in one of the most fertile mission fields on the planet.

Observation 8: It is a tremendous honor to be a student pastor, to disciple students and their families, and to speak into a person’s life at its most critical stage.

Observation 9: The grass isn’t greener over there, wherever “there” is. It’s just different.

Observation 10: It is difficult to lead an effective student ministry when one foot is with students and the other foot is trying to find the next step.

When is it time to step out of student ministry? In all honesty, I’m not really sure. What I am sure about is that student ministry needs people who will stick around. Churches and families need student pastors who will give their focus and energy wholeheartedly to student ministry until the moment that God decides to move them. This is the way it happened with the friends I mentioned above. They were wholeheartedly devoted to student ministry until the moment God transitioned them, and even in the transition there was reluctance and a hesitance to walk away from something they loved so much.

When is it time to step out of student ministry? At some level, it is time to step out when God calls you to something else, and you are hesitant, fearful, or remorseful (maybe all three) to step away from something that you love dearly.