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How do your grow a student ministry that weathers both time and struggle? A student ministry that offers long-term, consistent, healthy, and fruitful programs? A student ministry that incorporates the gifts, talents, time, and resources of a great many, instead of burning out one staff person every 15 to 24 months? This is The Sustainable Experiment.
My name is Jay Higham. I have been working with students for over 26 years, with almost 20 of those years in full time student ministry. In those years I have watched God do amazing things in the lives of my students, my volunteer leaders, and the families associated with our student ministry. I was fortunate that while I was still young in my career, I received some great encouragement. I read The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields.
The book was revolutionary for me. While I knew what I wanted to do with my student, the book provided me with the how to do it. Structure. The blueprint to establish some foundational building blocks that led to the framework for our successful ministry. It was an exciting time. The program grew from attention-getting gimmicks to life chaining ministry.
But while the model provided the framework, I found myself as the constant foreman. While my leaders were on board with what we were doing, our overall purposes and values were different from the churches. We did not align with the great vision and mission of the church, and that led us to become an organization within an organization. As long as I was driving the bus, things were great.
When I left the church, I turned the responsibility over to my leaders. They continue heading in the same direction, maintaining our vision and purpose. But eventually a "new" guy was hired, with ideas and philosophies that were different. Change came. Then another "new" guy, with his own thoughts on youth ministry. Again there was change. Then another.
I too was the "new" guy. I served a church where I brought along my bag of what works and what doesn't work. Like so many others, I made changes. And again, a ministry that was apart from the vision and ministry of the church at large.
Then I started realizing the error. A student ministry should not be an organization within an organization, but part of the large organization. Instead of separate and unique visions and mission, the student ministry should embrace and share the great mission and vision of the congregation. That led me to the book, Sustainable Youth Ministry, by Mark DeVries. Watch the video.
Order a copy of Sustainable Youth Ministry. If you already have a copy, grab it off your shelve. Get a couple highlighters, page markers, and a notebook. Once you have your book, read the Introduction and answer the questions in Appendix A.
I would suggest that you read the Introduction once straight through, then come back and read it again taking notes as you go. Look for thoughts that stick out to you. Ask yourself, in anything being said feel or sound familiar?
When you finish reading, come back to The Sustainable Experiment page and click on the additional links with some of my thoughts and comments. Be sure to use the comment section to leave your thoughts.
Finally, look for Week Two!