Today’s truths weigh heavily on my heart as they impact the next generation that will soon be a part of our Women’s Ministry (if they aren’t already).
I pray we’ll take them seriously and that we’ll seek ways to make connections with this group of young women.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Michael Jenkins, Student Pastor in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (Not pictured above)
After nearly 15 years in some form of Student Ministry from being an intern, a Sunday School teacher, camp counselor, mission trip leader, and student pastor, I want to encourage you in how you serve and support both your student pastor and the students, and in a specific way the young ladies.
1. Our Teenage Girls Are Watching You
Yes, this includes watching what you wear, but it is so much more than that. Our girls are watching…YOU. How you incorporate your walk with the Lord into every facet of your life: your dating/marriage relationship, how you parent, your friendships, your job, your attitude, your desire to serve the church, and if you are as quick to forgive one another as we all hoped we would once high school was over.
In other words, if you compartmentalize your faith in your life, i.e., you have your “church self”, “work self”, “lunch bunch self”, “gym self”, “mommy self”, “wife self”, etc., please know that our young ladies will (a) be lead to believe that this is what a godly, mature woman looks and acts like; or (b) realize that it ISN’T what a godly, mature woman looks and acts like and will be starved for role models.
So please, let the Gospel and your personal walk with the Lord infiltrate and inform every aspect of your life. No need to strive for perfection, but our girls need to see the value in the struggle for godliness in your life so they will struggle for it in theirs.
2. Our Teenage Girls Need Time With You
This can take many forms. Of course, it can be as you serve as a Sunday morning teacher, care group leader, volunteer, etc. in Student Ministry. But also recognize that when you go on a trip with students, you spend an exponential more amount of time with them. Let’s say you teach Sunday School/Bible Fellowship/Small Group, then you essentially get 48-52 hours with them in a given year. If you go on a weekend trip, you get roughly the same amount as a year of Sunday School, and if you go to camp/mission trip with them, then you’re looking at approximately 100-120 hours with them (or twice the amount of Sunday School). Since that time is compressed into a short window, relationships often see a reciprocal increase in closeness.
But it does not have to be through Sunday mornings or small groups, or through programmed events like camps, retreats, and mission trips. What if you just have them over to your house for Bible studies, cooking classes (not trying to pigeon-hole women here), skills groups, etc? What if you and a small group of girls go to the gym together? Find opportunities to do things you are already doing, and do that with young ladies.
3. Don’t be afraid…
Don’t be afraid of being perfect. Students are not looking for perfect. They are looking for real, though. By the way, real translates. If you say, “This is hard for me,” or “This is not my natural reaction or the easy way, but because of the Gospel, I know this is right,” students may be more likely to trust you and believe you
For example, you and I both know that it is easier to binge-watch our favorite new show on Netflix, but we (often) struggle to find time to stop, turn off devices, and read the Bible to feed our soul. Again, students seeing you struggle and overcome the struggle is more valuable than you may realize.
Don’t be afraid of students opening up to you. Seriously. Sometimes, students can emotionally unload their baggage on you. Not being afraid of that moment may mean that you need to work on a poker face. Would you freak out if a girl told you that she was sexually active? Raped? Came from an abusive home? Did not believe in God? If they are unpacking their struggle with you, be very slow to react with “Oh. My. Goodness! I can’t believe YOU are dealing with that!” This also means, don’t be afraid of not having an answer to their issue. Minister through your presence. Listen. Ask some questions, but with gentleness. Know when to not promise secrecy. Hug.
Don’t be afraid to have FUN! We ought to display that a relationship with Jesus and life lived for Him – though it has difficulty – is filled with joy! I personally am a fan of Rend Collective (I highly recommend their music and live show if you get that chance!!), and they put out a great video describing their latest album, “The Art of Celebration”. Take about 7 minutes and enjoy.
Don’t be afraid of investing in the life of students. This could mean that you have voice in their lives, attend some of the things that they do, or even consider them as pseudo-family. You will not regret it. Hey, you might even score a babysitter along the way! (I’m kidding….but for real, you might.)
Don’t be afraid when you do not see an immediate return on your investment. Student ministry, and I believe ministry in general, is often a long-term investment. Yes, there are some immediate changes, but many times growth is seen through that on-going relationship with a student.
Don’t be afraid to say no. In ministry or investing in the life of students, you may have to protect your schedule, time with your family and spouse, etc. That does not allow you to be a jerk, but at the same time, be clear with a student that you may not have the time or availability “at that moment”, and that it is not that you do not have time for them.
4. Pray for our students.
I do not know a youth pastor on the planet that would not want you to pray for students. If you are not involved in student ministry and do not have a group of students you already know that you can pray for, then I encourage you to contact your youth pastor for a list of the students to pray for on a regular basis.
You could pray for the student’s salvation, growth in his/her relationship with Christ, wise decisions, Godly influences, etc. Perhaps you have seen the prayer calendars where every day of the month you have a set of people to pray for, you could set up one to pray for students.
Student pastors and volunteers can plan amazing events, create cool shirts and games, and simply do some awesome things, but without the movement of the Lord among the ministry and in the hearts of both the volunteers and the students, it is not all that it should be. You could be the unseen advocate for the souls of so many.
And while you are at it, praying for the student pastor and team of volunteers is a great idea, too!
5. Be solution-oriented and supportive.
Inevitably, there may be something that the student pastor does, decides, or implements that is hard for you or other moms/parents. I am not talking about something unbiblical, unethical, or illegal, but maybe the student pastor decides on a new way to do camp or decides to change how groups are comprised. You could find yourself in the position of either joining the chorus of complaints or simply telling those parents to talk to the student pastor directly. In my experience, when a parent did not understand why we were doing something or made a change, once we had a conversation the parent at least understood why the decision was made and there was not wedge of separation.
Also, if you see something that might be in need of fixing, bring a solution to the table. Do not just lob that grenade at the feet of the student pastor and walk away. Think it through enough to have a potential solution – even if that means you get personally involved in the solution.
Student ministry needs women to lead, support, and invest in the lives of students. So many women across our churches do just that, and I am confident that many of you are part of that army of servants. Thank you for what you do! Student pastors could not do what they do if it weren’t for so many people just like you!
Thanks, Michael for challenging all of us! We appreciate all you do!
One last thought from me – perhaps you’ll want to print out one or more of these lists and discuss them at one or more future Women’s Ministry Team meetings.