When it comes to events in student ministry, it can be a challenge to plan and structure a purpose for what you want to accomplish. When you’re driving in a car, it’s not enough to know where you’re going, but you also have to know how you’re going to get there. I hope to provide a grid that will help you develop a roadmap for events in your student ministry. This grid was first introduced to me by one of my college professors, Dr. Richard Brown, a youth ministry professor at Liberty University, and I have adapted his model into my student ministry event planning.
Every event our ministry decides to undertake always fit into one of 4 categories: Relationships, Evangelism, Disciple-Making, and Service. These are our four levels, or the four purposes we seek to accomplish. I should say our ultimate goal is always the gospel. We want students to receive Jesus through the gospel, and for students to be become more like Jesus because of the gospel. These four levels of ministry help gauge how we are striving to move the gospel forwards in the lives of our students.
Level 1: Relationships
I like to think of ministry events as an upside down triangle. You begin at the top with the entry-level, and seek to take a student further down the triangle on the path of a maturing disciple. The first level is an event that focuses upon relationships. This is a great event to meet new students, and it also gives the students in your ministry the opportunity to invite their friends who do not know Christ. This type of event gives new students the exposure to a Christian community. It allows new students to meet and hang out with your student ministry staff, along with other students in your ministry. Events ideas include: Concerts, sporting events, and game nights hosted by your ministry.
Level 2: Evangelism
Unlike the first level, this level directly proclaims the gospel of Jesus, and gives students the opportunity to respond to this message. This event also gives your students a chance to invite friends who are not Christians. This level builds upon the first, in hopes that students who came to your ministry in the past will now receive the chance to personally meet Jesus. When hosting or attending this type of event, make sure your students know the purpose! Tell the students in your ministry the goal is to see people meet Jesus, and encourage them to bring friends who do not know Him. Event ideas include: Student Conferences, Camps, and customized events hosted by your ministry.
Level 3: Disciple-Making
As students receive Jesus, the goal is to see them become more like Jesus. This level focuses upon students who know Christ, and desire to grow in their relationship with Him. Obviously, students who are not Christians are welcome to attend your disciple-making events, but this event is not geared towards them. In disciple-making events, we seek to intentionally invest in the students who know Christ, and are seeking to make Him known in their lives. Events ideas include: Retreats, Camps, and a disciple-making event hosted by your ministry.
Level 4: Service
The final level focuses upon service towards those in the church and the community. Service and disciple-making go hand in hand, and we desire to see students love Christ holistically, which includes tangibly meeting the needs of those around them. From my experience, students absolutely love these types of events! It proves challenging to get students excited about serving at the local rescue mission, or raking the elderly woman’s yard across from the church, but once students invest themselves in this kind of work, they often find it rewarding! This teaches students that following Christ is not only about going to church and putting in information, but it also about getting out of the church and giving out transformation! Event ideas include: Intentional sharing of Christ with others, partnerships with local Christian organizations, and meeting the needs of those within your church family.
As I plan our student ministry calendar, I always ask myself which of these 4 categories each event falls into. Strive for your ministry to embody both strategy and purpose. If you’re unsure of the purpose for your events, don’t expect your students to know it either. Beg God for guidance, know your purpose, develop a strategy, and pursue that goal as you seek for the gospel to take root and transform the lives of your students.
Mark Etheridge currently serves as Youth Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Master of Divinity program in Christian ministry. You can connect with Mark on both Twitter and Facebook.