3 Tips for Working With Students Who Have Busy Schedules
Every year, youth ministries attempt to create an atmosphere for students to trust and follow Jesus. However, so many struggle to see numerical and spiritual growth among their students. Many attribute this lack of growth to not enough resources or programs for students to participate in. As an effort to see growth in their ministries, youth leaders might contact other churches (most of the time the bigger church in town) in order to find out what they need to add to their ministry. After all, bigger is always better right? Our biggest challenge in youth ministry is not always that we aren’t doing enough, but that we may actually be doing too much.
Recently, Barna Group conducted qualitative and quantitative research among student ministry leaders in order to assess student ministry in America. During the study, they highlighted “busyness of youth” as the biggest challenge youth ministries face. Not money, volunteers, production, or good teaching, but busyness. The busyness of our students is something as youth leaders that we need to take into consideration.
I have seen this problem in our ministry over and over again.
A few adults have spent the past semester discipling a group of student leaders in a one on one setting. Through the process, adults were expected to meet up with their student(s) once per week, and fill out a survey afterward reflecting on how the meeting went.
At the end of this semester, I emailed each of the adults a question instead of a survey. Here’s what the question asked: What was the most difficult part in discipling students this semester, and why?
Here are a few of the email responses I received from our adult leaders:
“She is a busy student, and the only day she can meet is on Sunday mornings during service…”
“I feel like my girls didn’t realize what kind of commitment it would be.”
“Working with student schedules are difficult. They have work, school, sports, and other activities during the week that seem to get in the way of church events.”
“They have the desire to meet up, but not the time.”
“The hardest part has been coordinating schedules.”
“There has been more than one week where his schedule and obligations have made it difficult to get together.”
“Hardest part was the schedule, for sure!”
Surely you have run across similar issues with students as these adults have.
So, here are 3 tips to working with students who have busy schedules:
1. STREAMLINE YOUR VISION.
Streamlining your vision does not mean you have to change your vision. Too often when things aren’t going as we planned, we scrap everything and start over. Although there are times it may be necessary to get the whiteboard back out, just because you may not see growth right now, does not mean you have a bad vision. Most youth ministries aren’t struggling with the vision itself, but creating the system that allows a vision to thrive. To streamline a vision means to increase your efficiency by implementing faster or simpler working methods.
Let me give you a vision statement as an example: “Student leaders creating student leaders.”
Now, think about what your youth ministries’ vision is and begin with that. If you don’t have one, you need to develop a vision for your ministry before moving forward (there are many blogs about how you go about creating a vision and mission statement).
The next step in streamlining your vision is to ask the question, “how do we get there?” You have your vision, now you just need to figure out what is the best way to accomplish that vision. Make sure your students know exactly what the vision is and how you plan to lead them.
When there is a clear vision for students to follow, you will have created an atmosphere that is a more relaxed and enjoyable rather than cluttered and busy. Busy students will not make time for you if you never streamline your vision for them.
2. CHANGE THE CULTURE, NOT THE PROGRAM.
Here’s what this point comes down to: Learn more. Do less.
Instead of more programs, more curriculum, more small groups, and more services, try doing one thing, and do that really well. The more you try to do as a ministry, the less your students will have the opportunity to learn. Try creating a list of 2-3 things that your youth ministry does during a month’s span, and hyper focus on the one that is most crucial for growth. It’s easy to develop task-oriented students. We need purpose-driven students. If you have too much for students to do, they will feel busier and learn less.
3. DON’T CATER TO THE MINORITY.
Let me give you two quick scenarios, and ask yourself what you would do in each case?
- *You have planned a local mission trip for your youth ministry, and 16 students want to attend, but one student can’t make it because he has a baseball tournament that weekend.
- You are a youth ministry of 800 students and every year you plan a large event. This year, you have 50 parents who have complained about the date conflicting with their child’s busy schedule (you already have 500 students signed up for the event).
You have two options in both of these scenarios. You could either change what you are doing completely in order to fit the student(s) that can’t attend, or you could do what you planned and not worry about the few students who can’t come. You will always want every student to be able to attend your event or bible study. However, you have to understand that students will be busy no matter what you do. Eventually, students will have to choose the busy activities outside of the church, or the clearly defined vision you have given within the ministry.
Chandler Frazer is a student pastor at New Hope Church. He rotates teaching between the three campuses and oversees the discipleship program for The Krush student ministry. Chandler has a heart for seeing students come to know Jesus and deepen their love for God and others.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.