Guest Post: Lessons from my first day in Student Ministry

I will never forget my first day on staff, walking into the office, and seeing “Student Minister” on the door. That moment was equal parts awesome and what in the world were these people thinking. I was just about to turn 19. I had a a student in my youth group older than me. 

I remember closing the door on that first day that I had “office hours,” staring at my desk and a blank white wall thinking, “What in the world do I do now.” I had just had my first “youth group” night with my students. (I think we had 13 that first night.) After teaching them how much better I was at pool than they were and getting them all to sign up for the Michael W. Smith concert, our first official concert, (Hey Jars of Clay was the opener so it wasn’t that bad, plus they would hear me shout at the top of my lungs, “I love you man” in the middle of the quiet moment during “friends are friends forever.”) I knew three things, and sometimes I wish that was all I knew, about Student Ministry.

1. At the end of the day, all that matters is that these kids hear about Jesus. 

No event, program, awesome video, super hip curriculum, camp, retreat, or epic game would take the place of just telling kids about Jesus. In the midst of staff meetings, committee meetings, church business meetings, and budget meetings it’s really easy to forget about that. Nothing is more important or better than just telling students and living out the message in front of them that the Son of God died on a cross for them and wants to have a relationship with them.

2. I had no idea what I was doing.

Ignorance was bliss. Staring at that desk and realizing that even though I read the book, worked with students before, even spoke at youth retreats, none of that really prepared me for ministering to students. There was no seminar on what to do when the deacon’s daughter she tells you she is pregnant. Realizing that I had no idea what I was doing made me such a better Student Pastor. If I could shout anything at young youth workers, it would be, “You have no idea what you are doing and it’s ok. Please don’t try to act like you do.

3. I can reach a lot more students if I work with other Youth Pastors. 

The realization that I had no idea what I was doing changed EVERYTHING for me. I was never good at math in school, but I knew that multiplication was better than addition. I got out the phone book (this was before Al Gore had invented the internet) and called two churches a few miles from me that were reaching students and ask for the youth pastor. I begged those guys to go to lunch with me and mentor me. Those phone calls changed my life. My conversation with Allen Wilson at Columbia Baptist Church eventually caused me to quit my job and be his resident intern and opened the door for the ministry I have today.
Those guys and I were able to do events that we could have never each done on our own. They had sage wisdom of a combined 50 years of student ministry, and I had energy and crazy ideas fuel by my blind passion and Mountain Dew habit. We partnered with FCA to work with other churches to do events. Somehow I ended up spending a day with Josh McDowell as his host for our event.
The other thing I did was go to the Student Ministry conference that send me a brochure because the church said they would pay for it and my hotel I just had to cover my meals. Being in a room with 5000 other people who loved God and loved students made me fall in love with conferences. I’ve been going to youth pastor conferences since 1995. Sadly, during the last one I attended I noticed something, that all of the main stage speakers had nothing to do with student ministry, and the people who were sitting on my row and around my lunch table knew way more about ministry than they did. Through that experience, we created coLAB – a place where Student Pastors could all come together.
 youth ministry colab event terry weaver
CoLAB is a place for student pastors to come together, share ideas, and challenge each other to take Student Ministry to the next level. On September 30- October 1 before the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, we will spend a couple days conversing over subjects like leadership, evangelism, discipleship, brainstorming, and teamwork. You will not only hear from some amazing main stage speakers, but will also have the opportunity to go deeper within a small group. CoLAB is putting people on stage that all are deeply involved with students and deeply passionate about student ministry, and leadership. After every speaker, we will spend times in small brainstorming groups, wrestling through the topics together. CoLAB is basically free. The small registration fee covers a book, all of your meals, and a USB drive that will contain ideas that we will share. You can sign up here: http://colabexp-eorg.eventbrite.com/
I hope you guys can join us as we come together realizing that we are much better together than we are on our own.
Terry Weaver is a speaker and author who founded Activate Assemblies and Fuselage. When he’s not traveling around the country challenging students to make a difference in the world or hanging with Mickey Mouse, he is at home outside of Franklin, TN with his wife Leslie and their dog. http://www.terryweaver.com @terryweaver
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