One of the great privileges of my life is getting to work at a church that not only cares deeply about planting churches, but is actively engaged in the work of raising up those leaders that will be sent to actually plant them.
When I first came on staff at The Summit Church, one of my main goals was to hire Student Directors that would go and plant churches, or at least play a vital part in planting them. I long to see our 1,000 church plants in this generation filled with students and staff members from our student ministry. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s a mission. I believe we’ll see that happen.
The truth is, I believe whole heartedly that Student Pastors end up making the best church planters. Here are a few reasons why I believe this to be true:
- Learn to Submit to Leadership: I don’t know a Student Pastor that reports to no one. In every church leadership structure, the Student Pastor has a direct report. That’s a good thing. Church planters need to learn submission to authority before they begin dishing it out. They need to learn how to be a good servant so they can one day be a great leader. Student Pastors usually end up cleaning toilets, vacuuming floors, running errands, and doing the dirty-behind-the-scenes-that-nobody-else-wants-to-do types of things. It’s good for our souls, our pride, and our people. Our people need us to have experience behind the scenes before we stand in the pulpit and lead.
- Recruiting Leaders: Let’s be honest; there aren’t too many people knocking down our doors to lead in next generational ministry. It takes a lot of vision casting, multiple conversations over Bojangle’s (remember, we’re Student Pastors, we don’t recruit over Starbucks…just Bojangle’s) and promises of great t-shirts that they won’t get in other areas of ministry. Without a strong lineup of leadership in Student Ministry, the ministry crumbles. It can’t ride the wave of one big personality leader. The buzz will fade around your personality and leadership style eventually. Made the connection yet to church planting?
- Driven by Evangelism and Mission: Faithful and successful Student Pastors engage themselves outside of their office and on the front lines of ministry; in the schools and community. They see their mission field within a 10 mile radius of their church campus in the local schools. They deal with rejection from local school administration that want nothing to do with them…so they look for other ways to love and serve those schools. They actively engage in difficult conversations with students that are dealing with the hard topics of the day, and are open and honest about it. They think missionally and have experience of actually living it out. A church planter that doesn’t have experience on the front lines of mission locally usually ends up being all bark and no bite.
- Administration: Yeah, I know it’s not usually the first thing you think about when you think of your Student Pastor. Truthfully, they’re much more effective in administration that we give them credit for. They’ve spent time planning retreats, camps, mission trips, spaghetti dinners, beach trips, and all other types of events you could possibly think of. On top of that, they have a mountain of emails, instagram messages, and snap chat conversations to keep up with, and they have to learn to be effective and efficient in all of those. They track down parents that haven’t paid their money from a camp three years ago, and they usually do it with grace. A Church Planter with no administrative experience will fall flat on his face in the first 3 months. It’ll be over before it even starts.
- Multi-Generational Ministry Experience: The reality is, most of us think of Student Pastors as guys that work on an island with teenagers. When you tear down that facade, what you find is a ministry that engages with the church at large unlike most ministries in the church. We work with students. We work with our students to get them to lead and work with our kids. We work with the parents of our students. We work with the church to get people to serve in our ministry. The pools are limitless. If you want to plant a church that has roots in the community, it can’t be a church that is full of only 20 something’s. We need parents in their mid 40’s-50’s, grandparents, young professionals, college students, and so on.
- Just Because You Can Preach Doesn’t Mean You Should Plant: This usually is the first thing that young preachers get told when they preach a killer sermon “Dude…you’re gonna plant a church right!?!?” Maybe. But it probably should not happen yet. Just because you can preach doesn’t mean you can faithfully do the work of a pastor. Get your hands dirty in ministry for a while. Learn some of the necessary skills it takes to lead people in the gospel. Learn to fail. Learn to succeed. Learn to desperately trust the Holy Spirit to work in your ministry and not on your flare in the pulpit. Start on the front lines. Serve as a Student Pastor.
If God is calling you to plant a church…Praise Jesus! Go spend a few years on the front lines of ministry in a student ministry. We’d love to have you!