This post is part of a 7-part series looking at specific metrics we should consider when measuring ministry success in a post-Christian, post-COVID culture. These metrics have been adopted from a helpful book by Brock Morgan called Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call. I have taken the ideas presented in the last chapter of this book and turned them into a spread sheet tracking the things that I believe we need to be tracking. Each post we will dive deeper into the six things we track, and explain a little bit about why we do so.
In ministry we must care about each individual in our flock, sphere of influence, and circle of care, because every single person matters to God. We serve a painstakingly personal God who knows the very number of hairs on our head, the exact amount time we have left in this earth, and whom knew us in our mother’s womb. Why therefore, would it be any different when it comes to shepherding his people?
The truth is we are all under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd. In everything we do we must strive to accurately mirror and care for the very people Jesus loves and came to save. This task is impossible if left only to the gifts and abilities of the ministry leader, which in my case is me, the Student Pastor. Simply put, I can never be smart enough, funny enough, relatable enough, or godly enough to do the work of ministry alone.
How do we ensure that we are striving as best we can towards caring for students with a level of individual care that shows that we love them the way Jesus does? We practice individual care through the multiplication of ministry through adult leaders. As one of the godfathers of student ministry, a man I had the privilege to study under, Richard Ross defined this very concept years ago when he fleshed out the idea of students needing heart connections with what he called “spiritually alive significant adults”.
“Students who have heart connections with at least five significant, spiritually alive adults have the best opportunity to develop a sustainable, alive faith embracing the supremacy of Christ. The heart of the Christian faith is a relationship — a relationship between triune God and a believer as defined by the truth of Scripture. It should not be a surprise that relationship are also at the heart of spiritual formation.”Richard Ross, Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ
Students need deep, relational connections with adults who love and follow Jesus. It is not enough for us to just assume this is happening — so we put it on a spreadsheet and track it! We aim to tangibly answer the question, “Does each student in our church have caring adults assigned to them?” As we see students who need those connections we pray, recruit the right adults, and connect them with our teenagers.
Practically, teenagers with a mom and dad in the home who follow Jesus already have a head start when it comes to these relationships with significant adults. Student Pastors should have a level of influence and relationship with each student on the list, and thus will fill one of the spots. The remaining columns need to filled by someone, and I firmly believe that someone is in the pews of your church already.
Many congregations are great at throwing money at their students. Need scholarships to get to camp? Done! Want to renovate the student space to accommodate for all the new students? Done! Money is a valuable resource, and every Student Pastor on the planet is appreciative of the financial help we receive to do ministry. That said, the greater investment any church member can make is the gift of time.
Congregations that take full ownership of their teenagers by actively enlisting people who will consistently commit to being a significant adult in a teenagers life are making waves for the Kingdom of God that will ripple throughout eternity. It is the mentality shift from “the teenagers” to “our teenager”. Ownership is everything.
Individual Care hits the sweet spot when congregations begin to view the spiritual formation of their young people as a personal priority and a necessary action. As more teenagers form heart connections with spirituality alive adults, they will begin to draw nearer to King Jesus. Once they draw close to Jesus, their influence on their peers and parents will only grow and, before we know it, we will be graduating ministers who are devoted to loving Jesus for their lifetime and make a real impact in their next stage of life.
Does each student in our church have caring adults assigned to them? Not as much as we would like — yet. We are still a work in progress. That said, the work is well worth the effort as we strive to make disciples and graduate ministers.