Why Aren’t Your Students Doing Your Job?

By February 18, 2013Discipleship

In terms of development and maturity in America, age twenty-six is the new eighteen.  The “age of adolescence” is extending further back, and it’s not uncommon to have thirty-year old teenagers floating around aimlessly, living at home, and playing way too many video games.

This delay in growing up is damaging to society as a whole, and for God’s people, it is unacceptable. Yet, many youth pastors operate with a philosophy that fuels the problem. As a leader in the church, you are either perpetuating this issue, or creating a culture that overcomes it.

The scope of this issue can’t possibly be covered in one blog post.  However, I want to suggest a fundamental paradigm shift that needs to become as natural as breathing for youth pastors across our country. Other sectors in society like the family or educational system might get it wrong, but as shepherds in God’s family, we can’t afford to make the same mistake.

Here it is: Give your job away to students.  If you are not willing to do this, then you are a part of the problem. Let me explain.

At the church where I serve, our students do just about everything.  A student creates all of our videos, which are top quality.  One of our students runs all our lighting and stage design, and has done so since he was fifteen.  Another creates all of the logos for our t-shirts, which happen to be some of the coolest shirts you’ll see worn at the local high school.

A senior in high school illustrated an entire children’s book that we’ve written to share Jesus with local refugees.  Several others lead worship at our gatherings.  Another group planned and executed a massive concert where 300 of their friends and classmates came to celebrate life and creativity together.

We oversee twelve house churches across our county, all of which are 100% student led.  Our high school students lead our middle school small groups, and our middle school students lead their campus Bible clubs.

I don’t share these examples to promote our ministry, but to demonstrate how capable young people are when given the chance. Raising up leaders doesn’t happen on accident, and it also doesn’t happen overnight.

 From middle school all the way through college, our young people must get in the game of ministry.  They must be empowered and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom.  As youth pastors and leaders, our primary job is to make sure this happens.

This is not about enabling youth pastors to shed responsibility or work less.  It’s quite the opposite.  Empowering students to do ministry is much harder and messier than doing it all by yourself.  It is a cost you must count, and it’s a journey that doesn’t yield instant results.  Discipleship is never a quick fix, but it’s the way of Jesus, and it’s always worth it!

 -How does your ministry facilitate opportunities of empowerment for your students?

-On the flip side, how does your ministry enable students to remain spectators on the sidelines? 

 -How can you give your students some of your job? Start small, but name a few specific opportunities that you should be empowering students to do today. 


About Brian Burchik


  • Tkane@tlcbr.org' Troy Kane says:

    Brian, I really enjoyed the blog and agree with what your saying. A lot of my focus lately has been on moving from the old tradition of church(caring for the already saved) to focusing more on our calling by Christ of seeking and saving the lost. It seemed like a lot the examples you have, had to do with things that are nurturing the already saved, do you have any example of stuff your doing that directly outreachs to your community/the lost? I’m assuming you have a lot of youth, enough to have involvement in all these different things?

    Thanks TR

    • brian@gfc.tv' brian@gfc.tv says:

      Hey Troy, Thanks so much for your thoughtful response and questions. You are right in that we view our primary weekly gatherings as opportunities to equip followers of Jesus to live out their calling. We believe our students can reach family, friends, and peers in ways we as their leaders never could. We often challenge them to consider how God wants to use them to share the good news in their schools,etc. In terms of intentional outreach, we do 5-6 major events each year that are more geared toward those that do not follow Jesus or even come to our church. A few examples includes a Video Awards night, a Tacky Christmas dance party,and a Music & Arts Festival. For these, we challenge our core students to invite their non-Christian friends to join us and experience our community. Then we do our best to follow up. More than getting their friends to our events, we strive to disciple our students so they see mission and evangelism as an essential part of following Jesus. Then, as they are more outward focused, providing some easy “on-ramps” for them to invite friends into our community has been really good. I’d love to hear what intentional efforts you are making to reach out as well. Thanks,

  • suitm@rivertreechristian.com' Mike Suit says:

    Great post Brian! There’s a lot to chew on here. What you said is right on par with what Rich Atkinson talks about when he asks the questions: Is your ministry Multipliable? Is it Missional?

    I think there are deeper questions, or maybe better defined as deeper issues, found here. I would be willing to bet that many youth pastors will read your post and nod in approval or express ‘amen’ in agreement. However, I wonder how many youth pastors are in a position at the churches they work at to make the changes necessary to empower students to do these things and to run with passions?

    Here’s a few issues I see:
    – I wonder if there is an issue of ‘celebrity’ among youth pastors? When you empower students to do your job then the focus is off of you. I think too many youth pastors like the congratulations they receive for speaking, running an event, etc.

    – Do the churches that we are at view our job description as maintaining a certain program, and with that, do they expect a certain amount of students to be there (the numbers game)? If that is the driving force and expectation for youth pastors then empowering students may be too big of a risk for their job security.

    – Out of my second point, I wonder if many youth pastor’s job description is to hang out with students or to build up leaders (both adult and student). If it’s to hang out with students then an empowering culture can be an uphill battle. But if they are expected to build up leaders then it enables them to build an empowering culture.

    Just some thoughts I had. I would love your feedback. Maybe there are a few simple, yet practical steps you can suggest to help transition into an empowering culture. I greatly appreciate everything that you and Randy are doing and how the Spirit is moving through you guys at Grace!

    • brian@gfc.tv' brian@gfc.tv says:

      Mike, You bring up some terrific points here!
      -I think the “celebrity” mentality is a huge issue. How important for us as leaders to find our identity and value in Christ so we don’t use the ministry to get it. Easier said than done, but a journey we have to make, and continue in each day.
      -The numbers anxiety is crippling, and sadly a major struggle for many. However, we’ve found that the more students are involved in the events, the more they promote it to their friends b/c it’s “their event” – not the church’s. It could actually help numbers not hurt them.
      – The relationships are important, as Jesus modeled, but He was incredibly intentional in his relationships with his disciples, challenging them to leadership and ministry. I personally believe the role of youth pastor is more about providing those intentional opportunities than just hanging out and playing ping pong all day-but don’t get me wrong, ping pong time is valid too 🙂
      -Practical steps-I’d start by stepping back to look at the ministry as a whole and asking-Where are the opportunities for students to lead now? How’s that going? Are they being properly trained/discipled to succeed there? If not, start with those student leaders and create a simple, repeatable system that will give you time to pour into them and develop them more consistently. There are so many more things to consider but that’s a good place to start. Look forward to interacting more in the future,

  • dave@weare3dm.com' Dave Rhodes says:

    Great discussion here guys! This kind of conversation is what we hope this blog continues to become a place for. Love the articulate and respectful nature of the dialogue. Think it helps bring lots of clarity to college and youth pastors working in a variety of different settings. So as we re-launch the blog our hope is that this kind of conversation will continue to happen!

  • Great post and the previous comments were very helpful! I love that we’re talking about discipling students to lead AND about changing the role/responsibilities/expectations of youth pastors. The truth is that many churches are not strategically designed to make disciples. They are designed to make consumers. To figure out how to get students in your particular context “into the game” early on is to begin to reverse this trend!

  • […] Why Aren’t Your Students Doing Your Job? – The author states, “In terms of development and maturity in America, age twenty-six is the new eighteen.” Part of the solution is for youth pastors to be sure they heavily involve teens in the congregation’s ministry. Whether you agree with his thesis about delayed maturity, he makes an important point about mentorship, which I know our Department of Christian Formation emphasizes. […]

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