Today's guest blogger is Matthew DePrez, Now Generation Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Matthew is part of the 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort.
It wasn't until we were connected with the Fuller Youth Institute that we realized we may have been looking at student ministries all wrong!
For years, we had been looking at "success" in student ministries based upon the amount of students attending a weekly program night. As we wrestled through the statistics from FYI's research, we were compelled to see "success" from a new point of view. At Frontline, we believe that the "success" of our student ministry is based upon a student's faith retention after high school, rather than hundreds of students sitting in seats during a program.
This has caused us to shift our entire emphasis on programming and seek one-on-one mentoring relationships with adults and students rather than simply herding students into the doors of our building. As a result of our connection with FYI, we've also realized that true discipleship doesn't just happen on a program night, but everyday throughout the week. We've always said that individual students were more important than programs, but our actions weren't backing it up. This is why we instituted individual personal growth plans and student profiles for every student attending our program. Students (Christian or non-Christian) have the ability to prioritize the ways they want to grow spiritually throughout the year. It gives students a sense or personal ownership and they are able to proactively take steps closer to Jesus while building a relationship with their adult leader as they keep them accountable throughout the year.
Overall, through FYI and the Sticky Faith Cohort we've participated in this year, it has forced us to evaluate everything we do as a student ministry and ask if it is the most effective way to build faith retention in students. I believe it is the more important thing we've ever done as a student ministry.