Advice From the Hosts of the Lifeway Student Ministry Podcast
By Helen Gibson
If you’re a student pastor, you may be using summer as a time to help your students develop new spiritual habits and disciplines, such as reading their Bibles every day.
Summer can also be a good time for you to develop some new skills and habits of your own, according to Ben Trueblood and John Paul Basham, hosts of the Lifeway Student Ministry Podcast.
“This is a great time for you to implement some new leadership and organizational habits in your own life that will stick around when the normal ministry year begins this fall,” Trueblood says.
On a recent episode of their podcast, Trueblood and Basham discussed five things they say student pastors should do every week.
It’s not an exhaustive list, they say, and it doesn’t include things they assume student pastors are already doing, like studying Scripture, praying, and pursuing the Lord.
But, they say, doing these things can help student pastors be more organized, accountable, and fulfilled in their positions, making their ministries even more effective.
1. Strategically plan for the future, looking one week, one month, and three months ahead.
Trueblood says a stereotype of student pastors sometimes frustrates him.
“There’s a general thought — and sometimes this bothers me and gets me kind of riled up inside — that student pastors aren’t gifted administratively,” Trueblood says.
He says he knows this isn’t true for every student pastor. But for those who do struggle in this area — especially younger ministry leaders who may not have as much administrative or organizational experience — a simple framework can help.
Every week, student pastors should review their to-do list for the next week, he says.
“Before you close out the week, think about next week,” Trueblood says. “Make it one of your tasks to complete every single week, thinking about what you have to get done next week.”
And don’t stop there, he says. Student pastors should also take time each week to think about what will happen in the next month and in the next three months, making checklists of the tasks that will need to be accomplished.
“What’s happening in those months, and what can I do right now to relieve the stress and pressure and workload of those months that are coming?” Trueblood says.
“This doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing required in order to execute something you have coming up in September, but it will be helpful for you to have this rolling three months.”
Why should student pastors focus on three-month chunks at a time? Basham says this gives student pastors a quarterly view of the year since student ministry can change from season to season.
“A quarter-by-quarter view allows you to segment out the differences between each season in your ministry in a very approachable way,” Basham says.
On the other hand, the one-month view gives student pastors a chance to finalize plans, so by the time they’re a week out from an event, their focus can shift to small, last-minute details.
Trueblood and Basham suggest looking at some bigger annual events, such as DiscipleNow or summer camp, six months to a year out. Reservations, deposits, and deadlines may need to be made far in advance.
But in general, they say, it can be helpful to think of your ministry through a one-week, one-month, and three-month lens to ensure you’re leading with a plan.
2. Have (at least) one meaningful conversation with a leader.
It’s important to build connections with the adult leaders who serve alongside you in ministry, Trueblood says. One great way to do this is by meeting with them regularly for meaningful conversations about how things are going.
“The word ‘meaningful’ there is important because it shows you value that person, and you’re taking the time to spend with them,” Trueblood says.
Trueblood and Basham, who have spent a combined 24 years in student ministry, both say they can look back and see times in their ministry careers when they could have done this better.
It takes time and intentionality to go to coffee with volunteers or sit down with them over lunch and care for their souls, but it can be extraordinarily beneficial.
“They want to know they’re running with you, not just that they’re a cog in your student ministry machine,” Basham says.
Trueblood and Basham also say student pastors should adjust this goal to what’s right for them. For a volunteer or bivocational student pastor, one meaningful conversation a week is probably just right. Someone on staff at a larger church could probably meet with more than one leader a week.
“I think you need to start with one, and then you, as the leader, need to evaluate where you’re at,” Trueblood says.
3. Meet in discipleship with a group of teenagers.
Meeting with and discipling a group of teenagers each week has a number of benefits, Basham and Trueblood say.
For one, it allows student pastors to use their leadership skills and live into their callings as student pastors. It also allows them to mirror for other adult leaders what small group discipleship should look like. And it’s almost always rewarding for the student pastor.
“Oftentimes, it’s this moment you spend with your small group that will be some of the most rewarding moments in ministry — the relationships that will last forever and the moments you’ll remember,” Trueblood says.
4. Meet in a mentoring or accountability community.
Basham says this is something he didn’t really do until recently, but now, he’s glad he did.
“Until about a year and a half ago, I don’t think I let anyone truly know me,” he says.
“I think a lot of us get into that mistaken mindset that it has to be all put together,” Basham says. “So we’ll share struggles, but we won’t share the full struggle. And when we do that, we don’t allow ourselves to be fully known, and we also don’t allow the other person the opportunity to make themselves fully known.”
Opening up to a mentor or accountability partner allows ministry leaders to have someone to walk with them through difficult circumstances and hidden sin, and Basham says this can be greatly beneficial.
He does add that student pastors should be wise about whom they open up to. It shouldn’t be someone they’re discipling, and it shouldn’t be someone they just met or can’t trust.
“Find someone you can build a trusting relationship with that’s running the same speed as you,” Basham says.
5. Communicate proactively.
“Here’s a question you need to be asking every single week before the week is over: Is there anything my pastor, other staff members, parents, [or] volunteers need to know?” Trueblood says.
If the answer is yes, Trueblood says student pastors should go back to step one and determine how they’re going to communicate with their pastor, fellow staff members, parents, and volunteers in the next week, the next month, and the next three months.
“If there are things they need to know that are coming up in that timeframe, then you can build a communication plan to make sure they’re aware,” Trueblood says.
For the pastor and the rest of the church staff, this helps to ensure everyone is on the same page about up-coming events and resources that will be needed.
Want more great tips for student ministry? Listen to the Lifeway Student Ministry Podcast on Apple or Adroid devices.
- 3 Things Student Ministry is Not (and 3 Things it Should Be)
- 9 Surprising Facts About Teens and the Bible
- Get Your Students Ready for Camp
- The Surprising Reason Many Members of Generation Z Become Christians
HELEN GIBSON (@_HelenGibson_) is a freelance writer in Cadiz, Kentucky.