Yesterday I was reminded about the key to student ministry. The key is relationships. 
One of our volunteers leads a small group of middle school girls and she also has two young ladies from the group she is personally in discipling. She has invested time, not just on Sunday evenings at youth but also outside of our youth group time.

We had our church picnic yesterday and this volunteer came to me with one of the young girls she is discipling to talk about salvation. The young lady was interested in understanding what salvation was all about. We had a great conversation together and right there at the park, at the picnic, this young lady put her faith in Jesus Christ. We were able to pray together and celebrate this decision to follow Christ.

Big events are fun, awesome, can draw lots of students. Programs are often used to “disciple” or even reach students. Most student ministries has both of those components, at least that would be my guess. I’m sure that there is some fruit from those events and programs as well.

Over the past several years as I grow older, and now that I’ve spent over 25 years in student ministry, I’m becoming more convinced that the biggest dividends on our investment in student ministry is found in relationships. These are the students we see continue on with their faith when they leave “the nest” and start life on their own. Students need spiritually healthy adults investing into their lives. It costs us more time, more effort, more energy but I believe this is the key to helping produce fully devoted followers of Christ out of our student ministries.

This is discipleship, a mature believer investing into a young believer. Sure the big class method helps some people grow but a class is not discipleship. A class is disseminating helpful information. The investment of your life into the life of another believer is where discipleship truly happens. Information is easy to follow or ignore. Relationships bring a level of accountability and expectation.

I strongly believe that if student ministries keep doing youth group the same way we did back in the good old days of announcing youth group and ordering pizza we will miss reaching and impacting an entire generation. Student ministry of the future (and needs to be happening in the here and now) is going to be all about discipleship and students in a mentor relationship with a caring adult. Student ministry will need to happen more outside of our youth group time and happen out there in life.

What is your student ministry’s model of discipleship look like?
What changes need to be made in your student ministry to be more effective in discipling students?
How are you joining forces with parents in discipleship?