What Do You Expect Of Your Students?

So we all have expectations. Whether they are good or bad, we have them.
I feel this is the same for student ministry and the students that each of us have coming to our ministries. And churches all over will have stage time given to talking about getting involved and what the expectation is for a member of the church, however I think we sometimes fail the students by not placing expectations on them for the ministry they attend. I feel if we neglect expectations in our students, then our ministries will suffer and we, as the student pastors, could easily get burned out.

Expectations Pushes Personal Growth

I think back to when I was in student ministry and my student pastor gave me areas of our ministry to own and take control of even before I was saved because he saw leadership qualities in me. Student pastors and leaders need to be on the lookout for those students that can grow with a little push from us as a mentor and pastor. When students start to grow, they serve more. So start them out small and see what happens. Some of your best student leaders can sometimes be the least likely because they are just needing a push in the right direction.

Expectations Excel Spiritual Maturity

We all want our students to become sold out followers of Christ. I have not ever talked to or read something from a student pastor or leader in ministry that would say anything different. So we need to give our students expectations of what we would want to see them do in the disciplines of the faith to see their faith grow. I have seen this play out in students that have stepped up to help lead a Sunday morning small group discussion because they were asked and then months later the same student is leading a Bible study on their own with their friends not from church at school. It all started with putting an expectation on them to grow spiritually.

Expectations Can Move Students From Consumers to Contributors

This is the top area that I have seen students flip because of expectations put on them by the leaders and pastors of a student ministry. Students today want to be valued and when you tell them expectations and ask them to serve it shows them that you believe in their ability and what they can be for your student ministry. For me, it has played out in the area of a worship band. We have all students that are leading worship for our Wednesday service and they are part of the core of students because it pulled them in and gave them a part of the ministry. Students wants leaders to show we believe they can do more than just goof off and go to school. We give them expectations and watch the flip from just merely coming to your group to serving, loving, and promoting the ministry that they serve in.

How do you guys handle expectations of your students in the ministries that you lead? Have you seen some of this work in the area of expectations? Have you seen it not take off like you hoped?

27 Comments

  1. Kyle, This is a very well done article. You are spot on. And in my opinion, you should have started out with 80% of students leaving the church statistic, because this is one of the main ways to counter that trend. Here is what we do (To answer you closing three questions) we constantly observe our students in their natural habitats and occasionally even set up social experiments to see who the natural leaders of our group are. We then use Jesus' approach to ministry and we select our "disciples" if you will. Every two years we select a different group, with as many as three groups going at one time. We invest in them, teach them leadership principles, keep up with their quiet times, make them do book reports, public speeches, and get involved in an area of ministry outside of the youth group. We also let them know right up front that we are now a part of their life, and nothing is off limits. Developing a leadership structure within your youth group helps to grow these students into full functioning Christian adults and it also eases the burdens of the YP, because they do the grunt work that we normally would do. This will also grow your youth group because there will be a built in sense of investment with these students that you are training. There are downfalls though: 1. There can being an atmosphere of elitism in those selected. To counter this, we have forbid any of our student leaders to tell anybody in the youth group about our group for the first year. In this first year we teach them about servant leadership. Leadership begins at the feet of Jesus is our mantra for year one. 2. It can create a "check the box" Christianity model. This is what worries me the most. But I believe that if students aren't doing enough, then it is because we aren't challenging them enough. Students always rise to the challenge. And then all we can do is pray that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our student leaders' hearts and make this process personal to them. But as I stated yesterday, all youth groups I have ever been a part of have flipped the 80% trend on its butt, and this is the only constant in all of those groups that the average youth group may not be doing. So you are definitely on the right track with this one.
    • This is Good, man. What percentage of your students are in one of these groups? Do you lead them all or are there other volunteers? I love the idea though!
      • Well we will have two going at once and I will lead the first year of every group and pass them on to volunteers the second year and following. We try to have between 10-12 in each group, so usually around 20 kids that are in it with 10 already complete and 10 more too young. Because it is a 3 year program we only ask 9th and 10 th graders. Middle school is too young and juniors and seniors wouldn't be able to complete enough of it. But we are constantly looking and we will add kids along the way if they join the church and need to be it the program but weren't attending our church at the time of recruitment.
  2. Kyle, This is a very well done article. You are spot on. And in my opinion, you should have started out with 80% of students leaving the church statistic, because this is one of the main ways to counter that trend. Here is what we do (To answer you closing three questions) we constantly observe our students in their natural habitats and occasionally even set up social experiments to see who the natural leaders of our group are. We then use Jesus' approach to ministry and we select our "disciples" if you will. Every two years we select a different group, with as many as three groups going at one time. We invest in them, teach them leadership principles, keep up with their quiet times, make them do book reports, public speeches, and get involved in an area of ministry outside of the youth group. We also let them know right up front that we are now a part of their life, and nothing is off limits. Developing a leadership structure within your youth group helps to grow these students into full functioning Christian adults and it also eases the burdens of the YP, because they do the grunt work that we normally would do. This will also grow your youth group because there will be a built in sense of investment with these students that you are training. There are downfalls though: 1. There can being an atmosphere of elitism in those selected. To counter this, we have forbid any of our student leaders to tell anybody in the youth group about our group for the first year. In this first year we teach them about servant leadership. Leadership begins at the feet of Jesus is our mantra for year one. 2. It can create a "check the box" Christianity model. This is what worries me the most. But I believe that if students aren't doing enough, then it is because we aren't challenging them enough. Students always rise to the challenge. And then all we can do is pray that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our student leaders' hearts and make this process personal to them. But as I stated yesterday, all youth groups I have ever been a part of have flipped the 80% trend on its butt, and this is the only constant in all of those groups that the average youth group may not be doing. So you are definitely on the right track with this one.
    • This is Good, man. What percentage of your students are in one of these groups? Do you lead them all or are there other volunteers? I love the idea though!
      • Well we will have two going at once and I will lead the first year of every group and pass them on to volunteers the second year and following. We try to have between 10-12 in each group, so usually around 20 kids that are in it with 10 already complete and 10 more too young. Because it is a 3 year program we only ask 9th and 10 th graders. Middle school is too young and juniors and seniors wouldn't be able to complete enough of it. But we are constantly looking and we will add kids along the way if they join the church and need to be it the program but weren't attending our church at the time of recruitment.
  3. Kyle, I enjoyed reading your thoughts and I am encouraged that you are actually considering creating expectations for your students. So how will you gauge your expectations? If they are easily accomplished then little spiritual growth occures. If they are to tough, then the students get discourages. Outside of my own class, I have not seen expectations applied to students in the last 10 years in student ministry. I believe that every grade should have a minimum level of expectation. In other words, all 9th grade students should cover a certain set of topic and all 10th grade students should cover a certain set of topic, etc. The end result is that when a student graduates from your ministry they will have covered a basic core subject matter, served at a ,minimum capacity and lead to the extent that they are capable. For example, before graduating from high school in Oklahoma a student must have taken the required number of credit hours in the required subjects. This translates to a level of compentency before a student is released into the civilized world. Unfortunately, we release students into the world without properly equiping them to succeed. As a result 88% of the students that grace the doors of our youth ministries will not do so again after high school. So how do we measure our success? How do we know if a student is full equiped? What is the minimum level of expecatation we should have? Here are some of my targets: A) Every student should be able to write and give their testimony. We ask them to share their faith, but if we don't show them how to prepare a testimony, they will not know how to put it together. And besides, if the student does not have a testimony then they are probably not saved. (great way to catch those sitting on the back row). B) Every student should know how to pray. Teach the A.C.T.S method or teach cover the disciples prayer life, or both (which is what I do). Then practice, practice, practice. If there is an adult praying at any student event, then we are doing the work for them. Statistically, the average pastor prays 3 minutes a day. Boom. We spend 20 minutes socializing before events, we spend 20 minutes in skits and announcements, we spend 20 minutes in music, we spend 20 minutes in preaching, and we spend less than 2 minutes praying. (on any given Sunday morning or Wednesday night). Jesus said, my house shall be a house of prayer, but it is the very thing we spend least time doing. C) Every student should memorize the Roman road or the Four Spiritual Laws. This goes back to Item A. What is the minimum scripture a student should know from heart. Let's get real, they won't always have their Bible handy and if we teach them to rely on technology (ie phone) then they won't rely on the Holy Spirit. Josh 1:8 is a reminder and a promise and a consequence for the memorization of God's Holy Word. They can recite the words to a hundred popular songs, but they can't seem to remember Eph 2:8-9. Oh well, we shouldn't really complain, because look at their examples...Us. D) Every student should be able to prepare and give a 5 minute devotional. Why? It demonstrates their compentancy to study and understand God's Word and make it relevant. The most common statement amongst teens is that church and the Bible is not relevant to them. It is not relevant because they have never met the author. How else well they know Him unless they spend time with Him. E) Money. The Bible has more to say about money than almost any other subject, yet it is not taught to our teens. No wonder we have more public debt and no wonder our churches don't have sufficient funds to do ministry. It is because since they were children we thought them that it is theirs. The sad part is that most teachers avoid the subject, because they don't tithe and they think it is a double standard to teach something that they don't do. F) Which brings me to sex. Again, we don't teach purity because our lives were not pure at their age and we think it is a double standard to teach what we did not do. So to feel better, we hire the "purity groups" to have an "event" and do it for us. Last time I checked, my past is forgotten and my path is clear. Jesus told me, "your sins are forgiven"..."now, go make disciples and teach them...". F) Does your teaching material reflect your expectation? Are we creating story tellers or disciples? Does your material change every two years. If so, then that's a sign you have no expectation for your students. We change material to please the teacher, not to train the student. G) I will stop here, because this is your blog. But I could go on and on.. We get what we expect. And since our expectations are so low, what we get is a 12% retention rate. If we continue to do student ministry the same way we have always done student ministry, we will continue to get the same results. Let me leave you with this thought. Based on the product that you produce in your youth group, would you want your own children to go there? Or do you have higher expecations? WhoSoEverWill.
    • I personally think your expectations are too low. (you have 2 F's by the way) What you are laying out is a good start but it will not help your retention rate at all in my opinion. The study done by Harvard about the kids leaving the church showed that kids want A. Leaders who are real and transparent B. Deep Biblical truths (which is where your reply is centered, but they want to be able to answer the tough questions that most skirt around) C. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. C is where I think you are lacking in your reply. Our students must see a world that is bigger than their neighborhood, they must feel like they make a difference and they must challenged, encouraged, and supported to do so. So your A through G is definitely a good start, but it is still a bit surface level. What do you think?
      • James, Thank you for the comments. Let's take a look at this for a minute. The original post was an essay on the expections we place upon the students, not the leaders. Should the students have expectations for leaders as well. I whole heartedly believe they should. I hear from students that they thing the leaders are fake. The come in and throw the the "I love you all" phrase before they even get to know anyone. Is this real. I don't think so. Then you have the leaders who don't live the life they preach. They tell the student to bring friends and share their faith and yet they don't do it them selves. The tell students that memorizing scripture is important and yet they don't do it. Leader cannot have expectation they place on students that they don't first place on them selves. Otherwise they fail the "transparent" test.
  4. Kyle, I enjoyed reading your thoughts and I am encouraged that you are actually considering creating expectations for your students. So how will you gauge your expectations? If they are easily accomplished then little spiritual growth occures. If they are to tough, then the students get discourages. Outside of my own class, I have not seen expectations applied to students in the last 10 years in student ministry. I believe that every grade should have a minimum level of expectation. In other words, all 9th grade students should cover a certain set of topic and all 10th grade students should cover a certain set of topic, etc. The end result is that when a student graduates from your ministry they will have covered a basic core subject matter, served at a ,minimum capacity and lead to the extent that they are capable. For example, before graduating from high school in Oklahoma a student must have taken the required number of credit hours in the required subjects. This translates to a level of compentency before a student is released into the civilized world. Unfortunately, we release students into the world without properly equiping them to succeed. As a result 88% of the students that grace the doors of our youth ministries will not do so again after high school. So how do we measure our success? How do we know if a student is full equiped? What is the minimum level of expecatation we should have? Here are some of my targets: A) Every student should be able to write and give their testimony. We ask them to share their faith, but if we don't show them how to prepare a testimony, they will not know how to put it together. And besides, if the student does not have a testimony then they are probably not saved. (great way to catch those sitting on the back row). B) Every student should know how to pray. Teach the A.C.T.S method or teach cover the disciples prayer life, or both (which is what I do). Then practice, practice, practice. If there is an adult praying at any student event, then we are doing the work for them. Statistically, the average pastor prays 3 minutes a day. Boom. We spend 20 minutes socializing before events, we spend 20 minutes in skits and announcements, we spend 20 minutes in music, we spend 20 minutes in preaching, and we spend less than 2 minutes praying. (on any given Sunday morning or Wednesday night). Jesus said, my house shall be a house of prayer, but it is the very thing we spend least time doing. C) Every student should memorize the Roman road or the Four Spiritual Laws. This goes back to Item A. What is the minimum scripture a student should know from heart. Let's get real, they won't always have their Bible handy and if we teach them to rely on technology (ie phone) then they won't rely on the Holy Spirit. Josh 1:8 is a reminder and a promise and a consequence for the memorization of God's Holy Word. They can recite the words to a hundred popular songs, but they can't seem to remember Eph 2:8-9. Oh well, we shouldn't really complain, because look at their examples...Us. D) Every student should be able to prepare and give a 5 minute devotional. Why? It demonstrates their compentancy to study and understand God's Word and make it relevant. The most common statement amongst teens is that church and the Bible is not relevant to them. It is not relevant because they have never met the author. How else well they know Him unless they spend time with Him. E) Money. The Bible has more to say about money than almost any other subject, yet it is not taught to our teens. No wonder we have more public debt and no wonder our churches don't have sufficient funds to do ministry. It is because since they were children we thought them that it is theirs. The sad part is that most teachers avoid the subject, because they don't tithe and they think it is a double standard to teach something that they don't do. F) Which brings me to sex. Again, we don't teach purity because our lives were not pure at their age and we think it is a double standard to teach what we did not do. So to feel better, we hire the "purity groups" to have an "event" and do it for us. Last time I checked, my past is forgotten and my path is clear. Jesus told me, "your sins are forgiven"..."now, go make disciples and teach them...". F) Does your teaching material reflect your expectation? Are we creating story tellers or disciples? Does your material change every two years. If so, then that's a sign you have no expectation for your students. We change material to please the teacher, not to train the student. G) I will stop here, because this is your blog. But I could go on and on.. We get what we expect. And since our expectations are so low, what we get is a 12% retention rate. If we continue to do student ministry the same way we have always done student ministry, we will continue to get the same results. Let me leave you with this thought. Based on the product that you produce in your youth group, would you want your own children to go there? Or do you have higher expecations? WhoSoEverWill.
    • I personally think your expectations are too low. (you have 2 F's by the way) What you are laying out is a good start but it will not help your retention rate at all in my opinion. The study done by Harvard about the kids leaving the church showed that kids want A. Leaders who are real and transparent B. Deep Biblical truths (which is where your reply is centered, but they want to be able to answer the tough questions that most skirt around) C. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. C is where I think you are lacking in your reply. Our students must see a world that is bigger than their neighborhood, they must feel like they make a difference and they must challenged, encouraged, and supported to do so. So your A through G is definitely a good start, but it is still a bit surface level. What do you think?
      • James, Thank you for the comments. Let's take a look at this for a minute. A)The original post was an essay on the expections we place upon the students, not the leaders. Should the students have expectations for leaders as well. I whole heartedly believe they should. I hear from students that they thing the leaders are fake. The come in and throw the the "I love you all" phrase before they even get to know anyone. Is this real. I don't think so. Then you have the leaders who don't live the life they preach. They tell the student to bring friends and share their faith and yet they don't do it them selves. The tell students that memorizing scripture is important and yet they don't do it. Leader cannot have expectation they place on students that they don't first place on them selves. Otherwise they fail the "transparent" test. B) I agree students want deep biblical truth, but this is an expectation place on a leader to provide. What is the expectation for the student when they hear the truth. This is where the expectation comes in. Does the leader allow them to walk away without interacting with the truth or does the leader find a way to challenge the student with an activity that creates conflict or interactions with the world as a result of the truth. C) Again, is this an expectation for the student or the leader. Students should be expected to be involved. This makes them a part of something bigger than themselves. Leaders should be expected to provide ample opportunities for all of their students to be involved, not just a few. How many students are actively involve in their youth group? Typically only the core students. The student leader has to create opportunities and the student leader has the responsibility to get as many students involved as possible. Let's look at some of the expectations I noted. (A) Testimonies; how many students have shared their testimony in their youth group. This is involvment and participation. (B) Prayer: How many students lead in prayer on either Sunday morning or Wednesday night gatherings? Typically none. This is the simplest way to get students to participate, but unfortuately most prayer in youth groups is done by the leaders. And unfortunately, most prayer is short, quaint, impersonal, and predictive and does not pass the transparency test. Hence leaders come off as being fake about their relationship with Jesus. (C) Scripture memorization. The Word of God will never become real to a person until it is engrafted into their heart. Leaders won't expect it because they don't do it. (D) 5 minute devotionals; Real transformation only takes place with interaction into God's Word. As student with a surface level relationship with Christ will never study God's Word. Equiping students and empowering them to prepare a devotional and present it is the deepest level. Why you suggest this is only surface level, I don't know. (E & F) Money and Sex; Is this not the corruption that drives our world? Is this not at the core of the tough questions our students need answers too? Maybe you feel that teaching Sanctification and Regeneration are more important than teaching what God's Word says about Fornication, Idolotry and Lust. In conclusion, I agree with your comments, but they are off topic from the blog. Student retention is a whole different blog. My comments were to expand on where the blog fell short. The blog said we should push for personal growth, but did not offer any examples on how to practically achieve this. The blog said that we should expected spiritual maturity, but it did not offer any examples on how to practically achieve this. The blog said that we can move our students from Consumers to Contributors, but focused only on our core students participating in worship. The blog did not offer any suggetions for creating opportunities for non-core students to participate in service. And finally, while I agree with your comments about what students want, you did not provide practical examples of how to achieve these results. So, I will wait. Give me examples of how leaders can demonstrate Transparency; Give me examples of Deep Biblical Truth that students want answers to; Give me examples of how to make students feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves; Give me examples of how you get students to see a world bigger than themselves; and finally, where are the examples of what you describe as "Challenged, Encouraged & Supported". My comments included practical applications not theory. I gave examples of expectations that can be measured and achieve, encouraged and supported, as well as practical and realistic. And by the way, the points I mentioned are the expecations I have for just one year not four years of high school student ministry. My comments when considered a little longer go well below the surface. I am currious, as a parent, does your students youth ministry meet your expectation? Do they have a plan or are they just winging it? Can they tell you what your child will learn while under their leadership? The average youth minister stays at job just under two years. As a result, most students will have at least two sets of youth ministers during their four years of high school. As a result, students don't get connected and don't come back after high school. What do you think?
  5. I had a conversation on this very topic last night with my volunteer leaders. I will be sharing this link with them.

Leave a Reply

Shop By Category