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When we are healthy we are constantly helping teens discover Jesus, follow Jesus and live a life that honors Jesus.

What does a healthy student ministry look like? Is it the numbers a ministry runs every week? Is health found in fun events that attract a crowd? Is success linked to the number of small groups we have? Is it all about the number of teens baptized? Truth is that success is defined in different ways in different churches and by different leaders. I used to look for everyone else to tell me if what we were doing was a success. A shift happened in my leadership when I stopped looking for feedback to determine health and embraced principles that would help our team measure progress. Here are what we feel are marks of health in our student ministry. The goal for us is health. We want to be …

  1. Jesus Centered > When we are healthy we are constantly helping teens discover Jesus, follow Jesus and live a life that honors Jesus. This is different than connecting teens to your way of doing church or your doctrine. If we are constantly trying to help teens see Jesus more clearly, then life change will happen.
  2. Relational > We want small groups to be a foundational element of everything we do. We want to have a ministry full of youth ministers (small group leaders) and not just one youth pastor (our staff). Teens need to be known and mentored, and small group helps us do that.
  3. Engaging > We want everything we do on stage and within every event to be done with excellence and captivate the attention of teenagers. If teens walk away and think Jesus or the Bible is boring, then it is our fault. We want to set the bar high and do our best every week to grab their attention and reveal what really matters in life.
  4. Empowering > We want to see teens actually connect and serve in the local church and not just our student ministry. When teens serve in the church, they connect with the church and have a better shot of pursuing community after high school.
  5. Connecting > We want to always find ways to connect with families and partner with them. We also want to strive to connect with teens who are not followers of Jesus. Connecting is about doing good consistently and building trust in our community.

How do you measure health and success? What are marks of health that help you define success?  

Michael Bayne Michael is a follower of Christ, a husband, a dad and a pastor. He serves Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee as the Executive Pastor. He has served in multiple family ministry roles as a kids, student, and family pastor for 16 years. He’s also the Team Leader @ Parent Ministry for Kids and drinks way too much Diet Mountain Dew! Follow Michael on twitter at @michael_bayne.

More from Michael Bayne or visit Michael at

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  • LogosAletheia

    Teens need to be in small groups/Bible groups that include adult members of the congregation as an equal participant.
    The continued perpetuation of youth into only youth oriented groups robs young people of the sorely necessary input and modelling of older Christians into their lives. Don’t say they “get that at church” because most do not since Sunday School is age-grouped, junior church or youth church is age-grouped, and teens are primarily kept in teen-aged group activities for the majority of their time “at church.”
    Teens must be guided into the maturity that realizes they need a relationship with Jesus – that point about being “Jesus-centered” is the centerpoint. Too often, it is hard because connecting with believers that isn’t always “engaging” and “captivating” but a huge challenge. Church should be interesting for all believers; but being in the Body of Christ and an active growing member isn’t about constantly being “entertained” with the latest “event.” This is so hard for teens.

    “If teens walk away and think Jesus or the Bible is boring, then it is our fault.” No, it is not your fault. You are doing your part; teens are responsible for their own heart responses and actions. Teens bring their own failed corrupted cultural misunderstandings about the need to constantly be “hyped up” or “fired up.” Enthusiasm has its value, but where are teens learning life isn’t about being on a constant emotional high and how to continue to be a disciple of Jesus when life isn’t being a party time phenom of the latest music or worship band? There needs to be the substance of the Holy Spirit’s life empowering love and stablizing fruits of the Holy Spirit founded solidly on scripture in the context of the entire Body of Christ, not just the teen “fringe.” The “empowering” goal is critical and this helps to provide a much needed transitional link into the Body of Christ “at-large.”
    Thanks much for your challenging and thoughtful points in this article.

    • ken

      well said.