The student minister has a strange role in many churches. Actually, they have several strange roles. The student minister’s charge is to disciple students, but how this works leads to a complex set of responsibilities. Many student ministers find themselves essentially running a mini-church. They fulfill the role of worship leader or at least worship planner. They fulfill the role of education minister as they direct the curriculum and discipleship aspect of the student ministry. They have the task of communicator as they speak or preach to their students. They fulfill the role of event planner as they schedule opportunities for their students. If we’re honest, we also probably play the role of janitor more often than we wish as well.
Student ministry is a unique vocation. It requires much but also offers so much to the minister. We have the honor and privilege to disciple and speak into the malleable lives of teenagers and their parents. There are times as a minister where I can hardly believe that this is actually a paid job. There are times when other people wonder why it is a paid job, and I typically ignore those people. While it is a great honor to work as a minister, it is also complicated and takes some serious contemplation of what it means to minister.
So many people get into ministry without really considering what doing ministry really is. So many people see doing ministry as this summer camp type of experience where you are always close to God and you are changing lives simply by reading a Bible verse out loud. This would also look like a person becoming a doctor because they want to help save lives. Here is what the potential doctor and the potential minister are missing: they are focusing on the peaks of those vocations, not the normal experiences. Doctors save lives, but they also put on bandaids, do a ton of paperwork, work long hours, and watch people die. Ministers make disciples and help save souls, but they also do tons of planning, do a ton of paperwork, clean up messes, and have painful conversations with people making bad decisions who may never start making good decisions.
Does this mean that ministry is unrewarding? Absolutely not! It does mean that it will be infinitely frustrating if someone enters ministry thinking that their only role will be preaching to people for 30 minutes each week. Now that would be an amazing full time job. Few people, including aspiring ministers, understand what the day to day work of a minister includes. Just last night a student asked me what my real job was. I recently read a blog post that suggested that a student minister can really only expect to spend a third of his time in direct work with students. The other third would be spent with meetings, empowering volunteers, and administration. If you want unlimited time only doing face to face ministry, that is typically called volunteering. Being a minister means being a ministry architect and a shepherd. It means speaking into the lives of students and speaking into the lives of volunteers so that they might speak into the lives of students. It means keeping the church going so that the student ministry can even exist.
One final note is that regardless of where you are, but especially if you are just about to enter ministry, you need to know that you do not have ministry figured out. The people who have ministry figured out are typically the people who are destined to be out of the ministry in a year or two. We are doing spiritual and eternal work. Ministry is a journey, and you are blessed to have been put on the journey.