Student Ministry and Missional Communities

September 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

Over the next few weeks, I’ve asked several members of our team at The Austin Stone to write about how missional communities integrate with some of their areas of ministry.  To start with, my friend (and former intern!) Scott Frazier wrote a series on Student Ministry and Missional Communities.  You can find more about our Student Ministry here.

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Student Ministry & Missional Communities

Youth Ministry. Just let it sit for a second.

The mere mention of “Youth Ministry” invokes a wide array of emotions and memories for many people. The mental recollection of youth group often includes (but is not limited to); chubby bunny, lock-ins, ridiculous skits, church camp, purity rings, and 15 passenger vans barreling down the high way threatening the safety of anyone within a two-mile radius.

However, as the missional movement has permeated the church, it has left many asking “how does youth/student ministry interact with the missional movement itself?” Some have responded by completely doing away with student ministry while others have continued on the traditional attractional path of being a “holding tank with pizza” as Ed Stetzer so elegantly put it.

However, I don’t believe it has to be either/or, instead we believe it can be a both/and. I mean who doesn’t love pizza?

Family Ministry

In the Student Ministry at the Stone, we say that our role is to “equip parents who will disciple their kids and to disciple kids whose parent’s won’t”. Our Lead Pastor, Kevin Peck, coined this phrase when we were discussing the future of youth ministry in our church. We believe that within this phrase we see the both/and of integrating children into missional communities while also providing a space for students to worship and grow together.

We firmly believe that Deuteronomy 6 calls parents to be the one who disciple their children. As much as I love spending time with students, I only get to see them at most 3 hours a week while parents at home get over 160 hours a week! This is why it’s so important to integrate your kids into the life of your missional community. Your kids need to see your faith in action, not simply the faith of their student leaders. Todd has written about the topic of integration recently here.

Not only are we fighting to get all of our families into a missional community, but we’re also equipping our parents through resources and training from different avenues within our church. We provide parenting books and classes through our resources ministry, advanced theological training through our Men & Women’s Development Program, and starting this year, parenting mini-conferences tackling challenging topics parents face on a daily basis.

Student Ministry

While we strongly affirm a parent’s role in discipling their children we are also aware that not all kids are coming from a gospel-centered home, or have parents at all. This reason alone is reason enough for us to continue to provide an age specific ministry. The call of Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples, includes the call to reach out to students from 12-18 and show them the beauty of the gospel.

In our student ministry we do this through our Sunday gatherings, Discipleship Communities (our version of LTG), and last, but definitely not least, youth events. All of these I’ll cover more extensively in future posts.

I’ll never forget Alan Hirsch saying that either the church is going to disciple people or the culture will. How true does this statement ring with the youth of today? They have greater access to information than any time in human history. They are around other youth at school, clubs and organizations who are disseminating new information between one another daily. The call and responsibility on the church, families and student ministries today is great. Either we are going to disciple and shape our children or the culture will do it for us.

How is your church seeking to make disciples of students?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

3 responses to Student Ministry and Missional Communities

  1. Student ministries are such an important part of the church.

  2. Todd –

    We are hitting this crossroads at our church now. I am blessed in that I have at one time in my former life, been a youth Pastor and now as the Gospel Community Director (different name but much like what your doing there at AS), my job has been in casting the vision on how we do have a Student Ministry its just called Student Discipleship within Gospel Communities. As I build this, I find this much more difficult for people to see. What were some of your struggles when starting this new path?

    • Matt,
      I think it’s important to recognize that discipleship is meeting people where they are AND taking them where Jesus wants them to go. While it may be ideal to have an integrated student ministry into MCs, some people just aren’t ready to make that leap. As leaders, we have the responsibility to shepherd the flock of God in our care, and we must meet those people where they are.

      One thing I would consider is how you might utilize a traditional form of student ministry like regular gatherings that facilitate integration over time. Perhaps you teach the students separately from parents for a time as to how they can be involved in the life of the MC, and perhaps gathering parents over the course of year to teach and train them. I think there are a lot of possible solutions, but I’d encourage you to work slowly over time towards the destination of MCs.

      Let me know how else I can help!

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