4 Qualities Of Exceptional Student Pastors

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Student pastors have one of the highest turnover rates in churches. Some people consider the role to be an “entry level” point for individuals who are called to full-time ministry, so many candidates are not committed to a long-term position in student ministry. More often though, turnover stems from simply having the wrong person in the role.

A common mistake of churches is only looking for individuals who have “high energy” or are relational to students. While these factors are common to most successful student pastors, they should not be the sole criteria when interviewing for the position. Student ministry requires much more than a fun and approachable demeanor; it requires long hours of preparation, dedication, and consistency as a leader.

A recent Barna Group report indicates “more than half of all U.S. pastors sense a call to ministry between the ages of 14 and 21.” Student pastors typically have the most spiritual influence on this age group, so they bear the weight of pouring into many of the next generation’s pastors.

It’s important to invest time in seeking highly qualified candidates that are passionate about students and will lead in establishing systems. As you are looking for your church’s student pastor, consider some of these essential qualities.

1. Prioritizes discipleship

Student pastors can often neglect this piece of ministry. They are tasked with planning student camps, community outreach events, and weekly sermons, which can at times out-prioritize spending time investing in students.

Discipleship is one of the most crucial roles of a student pastor.Tweet: Discipleship is one of the most crucial roles of a student pastor. https://bit.ly/2sQbr0j via @VanderbloemenSG #StuMin

Without a consistent discipleship plan in place, students lack a crucial source of accountability. They miss the opportunity to share their lives with a trusted leader that can continually point them in the right direction. Student ministry should be more than a social or community service event. It should be an opportunity to pour into the next generation of church leaders.

Excellent student pastor candidates will be just as dedicated to discipleship as they are to maintaining a fun and welcoming environment.

2. Strong ability to engage the community and school system

An effective student pastor will communicate a desire to engage the community, acknowledging the necessity of a strong ministry presence outside of the church’s walls. It isn’t about getting the church’s name out there; it’s about remaining present through all seasons of the community.

For example, my home town experienced a serious tragedy when two high school students passed away suddenly in a charter bus accident. The very next day, there were a variety of student pastors and leaders that were available for counseling and support. Tragedies like this highlight the unique relationship between student ministries and school systems.

Student pastors adopt the role of a liaison and advocate for your church in the community’s schools, providing spiritual, emotional, and physical support when needed. Ideal student pastors recognize the importance of developing this relationship and know how to extend the reach of the church into schools.

3. Relatable teaching style to students and parents

The #1 quality that churches look for in a student pastor’s teaching is its ability to effectively communicate with multiple generations. This may seem obvious, but it is one of the most challenging aspects of the student pastor role. The teaching must be compelling to both students and their parents so that all material can be supported from the home as well. Parents do not want to feel irrelevant or oblivious to what their child is learning at church. They want to be able to supplement the information, which first requires understanding it.

An effective student pastor should be able to communicate the needs of the students and navigate how parents should relate spiritual truths to their students.

4. Team-creating ability and initiating volunteers

Effective student pastors should be able to manage systems and teams. This does not simply involve their own staff team (associate student pastors, admins, high school/middle school coordinators, etc.) - it also includes leading the volunteer team.

Casting and leading adult volunteers is vital to the health of student ministries. These volunteers become a secondary support system to the students. Volunteer teams flourish under the leadership of student pastor who can cast and maintain the vision of the student ministry. 

The ideal student pastor candidate for your team could be around the corner, but unless you know what to look for, they may go unnoticed. Use these four awesome qualities in your student pastor search to narrow your candidate pool and ultimately find the right fit for your team.

What are some of the best student pastor qualities that you’ve seen? Let us know.

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