I have some bad news. Your dream of life long student ministry is simply that, a dream. Whether you like it or not, there is an expiration date for your time serving in student ministry. But before you freak out, or throw a temper tantrum, take a second to consider this reality. And if this is actually reality, then this has some really important and potentially life changing implications.
If, in fact, there is an ending to your student ministry career, then what are the things you need to be doing now to prepare for this future? Great questions. Here are a couple of ideas:
1) Go back to school. School is awesome and a degree opens up so many doors. While you are following your call to serve Jesus and students, this is a great time to finish up that B.A. or better yet, start working on a Master’s Degree. And really, any Master’s Degree will do. Global Leadership, MBA, or the classic M.Div. Whatever career you do post student ministry, a degree is a must. So use all that extra time playing video games and blogging, updating your pin board, and go to school. Even work it into your contract and see if the church or some supporters will help you work out the money side. The benefits far outweigh the costs, so get after it!
2) Build bridges. It is so easy to have the “burn the ships” mentality when it comes to student ministry. You want to be full of passion and be idealistic about life and ministry. But life is really long, and ministry is really complex. These two realities need to be taken into consideration when dealing with parents, your supervisor, network connections. Wherever you go from your current context, you will need the affirmation of those adults in your life to launch you into the next thing. If you think you are the greatest thing since swiss cheese, you will find that your circle of influence will only get smaller and smaller. If you are generous with your time and your affection that your sphere of influence will only grow. And when you are ready to launch into the next thing you will have plenty of connection and options to go wherever God has put on your heart to go.
3) Build your character and spiritual depth. Youth ministry is an amazing calling. I love it. I have given almost 20 years of my life to it. It is also really easy to stagnate and to get lazy. There is only so far a 15 year old can go spiritually. And in no time at all you will be comfortable with your spiritual expertise and knowledge. But that is because you are continually grading it against 15 year olds. You must continually work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You must find people in your life who will push you to know Jesus better, to develop and deepen character, and to push you to invest in your spiritual gifts as well as to grow in your competencies.
When you do these three things, you will be always prepared for whatever God has for you in every season of your life. I am so thankful that our season is to be colleagues in student ministry. I am so glad that God hasn’t called me into the desert of Small Groups Pastor, or some nonsense like that (yet). But the day that God calls me into what is next, I want to make sure that I am fully prepared educational, rationally, and spiritually. And I hope that you are as well!
May God bless you in this season, and may we have a much larger view of ministry and the Kingdom as to be faithful stewards of the gifts that God has given us so that we can serve Jesus in every season of our lives no matter the context!