Foundations of Effective Student Ministry

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By Devin Akers

As youth workers we have the daunting responsibility of shaping the worldview of the students we work with. A worldview is simply one’s “conception and philosophy of the world.” We must understand the worldview of a student is constantly being shaped by their past and present experiences, which means the most consistent experiences are also the most impacting. With that said, digital media is one of the most prevalent facets of a student’s life and, consequently, largely impacts their outlook on life itself. In fact, author Sean McDowell recently cited that “teens 12-17 send an average 167 texts per day, 18-24 year-olds send 110, and 83% of Millennials say they sleep with their smartphones.” The iPhone has attached itself to the side of my generation as if it were an extra appendage. The recent acronym “F.O.M.O” (Fear Of Missing Out) characterizes it well, when it comes to our digital-crazed generation. What they fear “missing out” on, in actuality, is a barrage of information damaging to their confidence and understanding. Links about sex are shared 90% more than any other links on Facebook, and the average age boys are exposed to internet pornography is 11. Believe me, I could provide a long list of supporting arguments, facts, and statistics.

This article, however, is not one of doom and gloom because I believe in the transforming power of God’s Word, and the abiding impression youth workers are able to make on their students. But we must have a strategy to make the most of our time with them.

Here are a few tips:

1.) EQUIP WITH KNOWLEDGE

Author David Kinnaman wrote “technological access allows (students) to experience and examine content originating from non-biblical worldviews, giving them ample reason to question the nature of truth.” This might be intimidating if we were not drawing from the source of all truth: the Bible. However, we must know the truth for ourselves, and I have found that students are starving for biblical knowledge.

Although we live in the information age, where the internet has revolutionized our ability to access particulars and “knowledge nearly doubles every year,” our youth are still biblically illiterate. In fact, when it comes to church attendance, statistics show that teenagers are among the “most active” age groups; which would be good news if 20-somethings were not “the least active” of all age groups. There is a fumble that takes place between high school and college that can be traced back to the warning given in Hosea. If our students step onto campus biblically unequipped, we will lose them to this culture. That is why the importance of teaching classes on science, creationism, world religion, validity of the Bible, current social issues, and a litany of other topics cannot be overstated. Our students must be equipped with the power of a biblical foundation.

2.) EMPOWER WITH APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE

Not only is a theological perspective important, but Apostolic doctrine is an imperative tool that students absolutely must be able to wield in an increasingly critical age where moral relativism is the reigning ideology. Knowledge of subjects such as the oneness of God and the salvation plan through repentance, water baptism, and infilling of the Holy Spirit is not inherent, even to a student who grew up in church. These subjects must not only be preached, but taught in depth. Recently, we did a short survey within our youth group asking basic doctrinal questions. We were astounded to find that, although many knew the right answers, they had little response defending their stance Scripturally. Apostolic doctrine must go beyond the sensationalism of a fiery sermon and become an innate part of the Apostolic student.

3.) ENGAGE IN EVANGELISM •

Evangelism is an essential part of any thriving youth group (and church, for that matter). With the foundation of the prior two points, it will also become a natural byproduct of our youth groups. That said, there are several ways to engage our students in evangelism. Recently, we started a P7 Bible Club

in our local high school. Within the first year, we baptized five students connected to the club, and at least four received the gift of the Holy Ghost (see the Apostolic Crusaders website for more information regarding P7).

It is incredible to watch as the passion of soul-winning stirs a youth group. However, in order to see this happen, there must be confidence within our students; confidence in the truth of the Apostolic message and the faith and conviction to proclaim it. It is interesting to note in Acts 8, when the church was scattered, that all went “except the apostles.” This indicates to us that the initial churches planted throughout the surrounding cities and nations were built on the witness of ordinary people, just like our students. May we be reminded there is a field of youth who are hungry for God, and with equipped, empowered, and engaged youth groups, we can reach them!

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