Ministry: Thoughts on Portable Student Ministry.
For the past several years I have been a youth pastor for a growing church in Jupiter, Florida. We are in a very unique situation: we are portable. This means we don't have a building. There is no "youth room" or "center". There is no gym or central meeting place. I must admit it can be very difficult and without a creative mind, a lot of flexibility and a complete dependence on the Holy Spirit no one could last. If you are just getting started, know someone who will be getting started or your just intrigued with portable student ministry here are a few keys to making it happen:
Key # 1: Get on Campus. One of the obvious disadvantages of being portable is having no central place to bring students in. So the natural way to connect with students is to go to them. I'm a firm believer in going to the mission field and that's exactly what campus ministry is. While on campus the main goal is to be visible and available, plain and simple. You want students to see you and become used to seeing you. As they see you and you interact with them, communicate to students that you are available. Become a volunteer on campus, help when you can. Talk to coaches, teachers and administration and let them know they can trust you and that you are available.
Key #2: Invest in People. My pastor has always said that we will be a church that invests in people first. I know what he means. As a portable church we have a distinct advantage over many churches that have huge mortgage payments and massive utility bills. Instead of pouring booku-bucks into a building we are able to build into our teams and staff. As a Student Ministry we have been able to hire several interns that have specific job descriptions (Worship Leader, Ministry Assistant, Middle School Leader) . We feel as if we are building into the ministry future of several young adults. You must identify those you would like to invest in, and build into their lives. Remember we are in the people business.
Key #3: Keep it Simple. I think too many ministries get complicated. Portable ministries deal with this as well as ministries with facilities. You must simply lay out your vision, identify your environments and make it happen as simply as possible. I am always thinking how I can simplify the Student Ministry. From environments, to scheduling, to activities. We must filter all we do with the question "How can we simplify this ?".
Key #4: Communicate Often. It so easy to let weeks go by without communicating with your team, parents and students. We mail out a quarterly calendar/newsletter to ALL of the families in the church. I think its important that the entire church body knows what is going on in the Student Ministry. Utilize e-mail, cell phone, MySpace, Blogs and every other form of communication. Meet with your staff as often as you can. One thing that I wish I could do is meet with my team each week before each environment. Because of the set up/tear down situation we really can't. So we meet every second Saturday of the month to share, pray and strategize. Communication must become a priority, especially in a portable ministry.