Multi-site churches are becoming more and more common. It has become a great strategy to continue reaching more people with the Gospel. With any strategy, contextualizing for other departments look a lot different depending on where you work. For student ministry, the multi-site model is a different beast entirely. Churches don’t go multi-site because it makes student ministry easier. Student ministry is forced to adapt and figure out the best way to go after the beast that is Multi-site student ministry.
There are many different models to go with when it comes to student ministry in a multi-site church. There is not one clear cut winner when it comes to a model of ministry but more of a “whatever works for your church” mentality. I do believe there is a way to use your staff, your resources and your time more effectively.
In order to grow leaders and not robots, the team must own the ministry. Ownership won’t happen if all they are doing is what they are told to do. Robots don’t help the capital “C” church down the road. In order to grow leaders, the team must feel like they can make it all happen. There are so many tasks that need to happen on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis that it can be overwhelming and paralyzing. If you are on the student ministry team at a multi-site church, chances are you are still trying to figure out what the best way is to get everything done that needs to get done.
One thing that I believe works to increase ownership, use resources more wisely and create more margin for the team is when you compartmentalize the main buckets of student ministry. You can use staff more effectively and allow their strengths to be utilized in a greater way. What if your team broke into smaller teams and focused on a specific area of ministry while the other group worked on an entirely different area of the ministry? Here is what I mean by that. If you have 4 people on staff for student ministry at your multi-site church, have 2 of your stronger writers focus on curriculum that all of your sites will implement and to other 2 staff members focus on a small group strategy. The same 2 staffers could then focus on events while the other 2 focus on leader development. This model of strategy is scalable and allow the voices of the team to be heard in specific areas of the ministry.
Breaking down the areas of student ministry of focus will require the team to trust each other, and be ok if its not “exactly” like they would have done it. It will require having the entire team on the same page. It will require clarity on vision and direction. It will require humility from everyone to make it happen well. It will also, in my opinion, be a catalyst for your ministry!
Focus groups within multi-site student ministry will allow ownership to take place, the ministry will get a better product in the end and each staff member will not have to do absolutely everything the ministry requires. Breaking down the various sections of student ministry allows the team to use their time more effectively, utilize resources better and give greater ownership which will all help the team grow in the leadership capacity.
We all need someone in our lives that will fight for us. We need someone in our corner that has our back. Students especially need to know that and feel that assurance that someone cares enough to go to battle with them.
Exodus 14:14 says “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
The Egyptians were bearing down on the Israelites… they had just escaped captivity and Pharaoh changed his mind and came after them with the full force of the Egyptian army. The Israelites saw this huge army heading right for them, their backs up against a large body of water with seemingly no where to go. Panic was setting in.
Isn’t this the state we find ourselves in with our students at times? We see things not going the way we want, we see our students not engaging, we see some students being sporadic in attendance or just flat out not showing up, we see students not getting it or even regressing (in our minds) in their faith. This is a terribly helpless place. This is a place where we don’t know what to do and in our humanity we decide to let our emotions take over and direct our actions. There are a lot of times its just easier to give up and focus on the ones that come rather than turn and face the challenge to go after them. It would be easier to give up instead of fight for those students like God fights for you.
That was where the Israelites were as they stared down a seemingly unbeatable foe. They were ready to just give up and rejoin the Egyptian work force, the easy way out.
How easily they forgot all that God had done for them leading up to that point. They forgot about the plagues to soften the heart of one of the most powerful men in the world, they forgot about their ancestors before them who in a drought packed up to move to Egypt because not going there would have resulted in starvation and death. They forgot about time after time God meeting them in their deepest need and providing.
Right after those doubts The Lord uses Moses to speak words of truth and life. Words that we, today, need to hear. “The Lord your God will fight for you… you need only be still.”
The Lord told Moses to grab his staff and lift it high and the waters of the Red Sea. The waters parted and the Israelites crossed over on dry ground with a great army bearing down on them. The Egyptians came through the same pass after all the people made it to the other side and the waters crashed down on them crushing the army. God’s provision for his people came through again, shocking right?
When we are faced with doubt, uncertainty, students who don’t show up or don’t focus on the conversation, know that God is fighting for you. He is not fight for you so you can win a battle but because the enemy knows if you give up on your students then who is there to love them, go after them, encourage them? If you don’t do it… who will…
As much as God fights for you; you have to fight for the students God has given you. Even if it seems difficult, step into the gap on their behalf, show them love by touching base with them, write them a note, make a phone call, figure out a way to encourage them. Whatever you do, Don’t give up!!!
Never forget where your strength comes from and what God wants us to do in those moments of desperation, confusion and despair.
“You need only be still”, that is God telling you that He’s got this. In Psalms 46:10, it says to be still on know that God is on the throne. It could be in the season you are in, you have to be still, be ready to fight for your students and realize that God has you right where you are for a reason.
On behalf of the students who don’t realize how much you care, how much you love them, how much you fight for them, how much time and effort you put into helping them get to know about the love God has for them… THANK YOU! Don’t give up, Don’t lose heart, Don’t back down. Your Red Sea moment is right around the corner!
For the longest time now, we the youth workers of America have been hearing about the mass exodus of former students walking away from their faith as soon as they graduate high school. It’s ok to not believe what the statistics are telling you. It’s fine to justify or even make excuses for those the statistics represent. It’s even ok to believe them whole heartedly. It’s not ok to stop being strategic about how helping your current students engage with their faith. This is where you, the person who cares about these students, comes in. How you do what you do is a big deal and plays a huge role in the faith journey of the students that walk through your doors.
Now lets be honest, a young persons faith journey doesn’t ride or die on you the youth worker. However, you can play a pivotal role in helping them understand and embrace the faith in Jesus they currently are trying to own.
Here are 3 things you can bring to your youth ministry that will help beat the odds of your students walking away from the church:
1. Student Focus
I know that was the most underwhelming first point of all time. If there is no purpose behind what you are currently doing then you are not focused on students. Being FOCUSED means that you have a method to your madness and why you do what you do and how you do it are strategic and thought through.
What are you teaching through during your year?
What events are you planning and putting energy towards and how are those events setting up essential spiritual conversations?
Do you have a context for students to have a safe place to ask questions, be immersed in faith shaping conversations?
Are you providing resources or helping students engage with scripture?
Is there a way for students to explore and dive deeper with various spiritual disciplines?
Is fun happening?
Are your students seeing faith lived out multi-generationally?
All of those questions are important to ask yourself and maybe go back to the drawing board if there are holes to be filled. You might want to consider using a curriculum that helps you be strategic, if thats not your strong suit. Kenny & Elle at Stuff You Can Use have “Grow Curriculum” that is incredible, the good people at Orange have some amazing resources for you as well. Get focused on your students!
2. Help Them Give Up
No silly, not give up on life or their faith. Help them give up themselves. The quicker a teenager can begin thinking about others first, the closer they are to the heart of Jesus. Teenagers that are engaged in serving within the walls of the church or in their community are growing in their faith. They are learning what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus. As they serve, they need you to help them contextualize it. They need you to help them see they bigger picture behind their serving and how It ties back into the narrative of scripture. Teenagers serving also gets them around other adults that will care about their faith journey as well which leads us to #3.
3. Subway Time
Yes, I do believe that the slogan “eat fresh” isn’t really accurate. Teenagers need to be shoved into a small trolley with other adults and other generations that share the same faith. If you have ever ridden in a subway you know that sometimes you cant help but smell like the lady next to you that wore too much perfume. Teenagers have to see faith in Jesus lived out in various stages and the more they are around those adults the more that will rub off on them. There is a statistic out there that talks about every teenager needs 5 caring adults to speak life, love and encouragement into their life when it comes to their faith for them to own their faith as they move into adult hood. Are you creating “subway” moments for your students?
Do whatever you can with whatever time you have left with the students you shepherd! Be focused, help students give up & get them some subway time with other caring adults!