Having a Teaching Plan in Student Ministry

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When I was a child and my family would take long road trips, my dad would use MapQuest. For the uninitiated, MapQuest was a website one would use in the early 2000s to plot out directions to a destination. Those were the days before dashboard GPS systems and smartphone apps that literally shout out every direction you should or should not take.

The day before our trip, my dad would always enlist my help in picking the route we would take and print off the directions from our home desktop computer. On our trip, I would ride in the passenger seat and wait for our exit to come so I could tell him when to turn.

Nowadays when we miss a turn or get lost, our GPS app is quick to tell us where we have failed.

In my childhood road trips, I was the arbiter of right and wrong turns. If (and inevitably when) I missed the route, I was also the one responsible for realizing my mistake and getting us back on track to our destination. The only problem was, unlike my GPS app today, I did not possess a systematic way of getting back on track. I would have to admit my mistake, and we would stop so we could either backtrack or find a new route.

Having a teaching plan in student ministry is very similar. As we prepare and teach students we must know our starting point, our destination, how we get there and how we get back on track when we are not on the right path.

It can be so difficult to know where to start as a teacher. Your students will come from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, ages, maturity levels, families, learning styles. The variables are countless.

Most importantly, some will be saved and need discipling while others will be lost and need evangelizing.

So where do you start? Start by understanding that we all need Jesus, and we all need to grow closer to Him. These profound truths apply to people short and tall, old and young, saved and lost. Whatever your teaching philosophy, exegetically or topically, your students need to know their deep need for Jesus and how to begin and/or grow in relationship with Him.

Knowing where to start is only a tiny portion of the weight you carry as a minister to students. Where do you want to lead them.

In student ministry there will be transition periods. If you serve as a middle school pastor, you know when your students one day transition to high school ministry. If you are a small group leader for a 10th-grade girls’ group, you know when they will transition to the next small group.

The question of where your students need to be at that time is not something than can be answered in a blog post but can only be answered by God. Seek His direction and vision for your ministry. Not a minute of prayer and fasting is ever wasted as you seek His will.

We all begin almost every family vacation knowing our starting point and destination, but we have lost the discipline of knowing how to get there. That must not be true of your teaching plan. The young people in your ministry have been entrusted to you by their parents and by God.

Do the hard work of crafting a plan to get them where God has called them to be.

Do you want your students to be fluent in the Gospel message? Then teach them how to share their faith, demonstrate it in front of them and release them to do the same.

Do you have a burden for your students to be involved with international missions? Then teach of a God who came to us, serve immigrants in your community, and talk about what God is doing outside ,the U.S.

Finally, what do you do if you have been a directionless teacher of the Word? I can speak from experience that it is devastating to realize you are teaching good stuff but not heading anywhere.

In your desperation, remember the grace of God! It can be so difficult to be discouraged by our past, even in teaching the Bible, but the only thing we can do is repent to God, to parents, to students and get back on track.

Elliot Weston is the student pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church, Hartford.

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