1. Be relevant.- I know sometimes this phrase can cause the hair on our arms to stand straight up and our skin to crawl. This is because many people have taken this phrase to mean that we should water down the Gospel and our faith in order to not offend anyone. But instead what ends up happening is that we are no different than the world around us so why would anyone want what we have? But this is not what I am talking about. What I am speaking of is knowing your students and then making sure your youth ministry is addressing what is happening in their lives. I share this point because I can still remember the day when I was sitting with my small group of senior guys and they began to open up about their lives. I was blown away not only by the struggles that they were facing but also the mindsets they were developing about the world and what it was okay to do in it. See I had assumed they had faced the normal teenage stuff about cheating, lying, being sexually active, and this was true. But there was so much more things that they had struggled with that I had never even thought of and many of them were facing things at home that I could not imagine dealing with. Needless to say this drastically changed the way that I ran my small group. I encourage you to do this with your ministry. Make sure that you are sitting down and talking with your students about what is going in their lives so that you can make sure what you are offering them meets their needs. Which brings me to my second point.
2. Meet needs.- Students have what I would call a "ministry need." This is what I was talking about before. You offer them something different than what they get the rest of the week and you need to make sure you are feeling that need properly. But they have other needs. Students have relational needs. You need to make sure that these are being filled by offering your students community with a leader and one another. They also have emotional needs. You need to make sure that your student ministry is a safe place for them to share their hurts and struggles and find healing. Students also have physical needs. Some students in your group may not have enough clothes or even a place to sleep. Some of them only get the free lunch that their local school offers. You need to be sensitive and aware of these needs and then work to meet them. And of course, all students have a spiritual need. They have a whole in their life that only Christ can fill and we need to work in order to ensure that they all have this whole filled.
3. Be consistent.- This maybe should have fallen into the need category, because students rarely get consistency in their lives anymore. Parents walk out on them. They are moving from home to home often times. Relationships come and go. Teachers and coaches leave. They need to know that someone can and will be there for them on a consistent basis. You need to make sure that you can be that consistency for them or if you cannot that they have a leader who can. You also need to make sure that as you go out and minister to the community that you are consistent in that as well and that your work is not just a hit and run event to ease your conscience for a while. And in the process of all of this you can show your students and the community around you the one thing that will be the ultimate consistency in their lives. A right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A relationship that can never be taken away and will carry them through whatever life throws at them.
Please hear me again. This article is not about me thinking that we are not doing our jobs well. This is about me saying that we can always do our jobs better. I encourage you to evaluate your youth ministry carefully and see where you can raise the bar in your life.