5 Steps Toward Helping Students Serve in Your Church


I have attended church regularly ever since my mom first took me when I was 2 years old. By the time I was a high school student, I was fully involved in our student ministry and I loved my church. There were so many key relationships, experiences, and learnings in my journey of faith during those years. However, the experiences that grew my faith the most all revolved around serving.

Why Serving Matters for Students

Reggie Joiner says it best when he says “students will not feel significant until we give them something significant to do.” Without serving, a student could grow up and never have to truly live out what they believe. Or worse, they may never even have to really decide what they believe.

I think students should be given opportunities to serve outside the church (in the community, mission trips, etc.) and within the church on ministry teams. The amount of students serving in ministry in our church is over half of the average student attendance. We have always valued students serving, but we put a big emphasis on it the past couple years and we’ve seen that percentage grow from around 33% to over 50%.

5 Steps to Help Students Serve

Does your church encourage students to serve? If so, comment and let me know what’s working. If not, here are 5 steps that can help your students serve in ministry.

Remove the competition

The first thing churches can do to help students serve is to remove any competition. The biggest competition is typically when there is a student environment that takes place during services. There are many areas where students can serve, but if they can’t serve during services in children’s ministry, guest services, and worship arts, a lot of options are off the table. Consider moving your primary student environment to a different time, such as Sunday night or mid-week.

Cast vision to parents

Most students need their parent’s help if they’re going to serve regularly. In our church, we ask people to serve one and attend one (a service) for most roles. Students who can’t drive themselves (the vast majority) need their parents to either bring them early, stay late, or commit to also serving so they are all there together. I find it more difficult to convince parents to commit than students. For that reason, we find opportunities to specifically cast vision to parents and explain how this might be the thing that grows their faith the most during this season of their life.

Ask them individually

I’m not against asking students to serve in some type of large group setting. We do that regularly, casting a vision for serving and making a push at our regular student gatherings. However, we must ask students individually as well. I don’t think we challenge students enough. My pastor, who led an amazing student ministry for 13 years, always notes that any time he challenged a student to take a step, they always did. Talk with students individually about stepping up to serve.

Lead them similarly

I think there are some specific ways we can lead students that are different than how we lead adults, but, for the most part, I believe the best approach is to lead them the same way. Set the same expectations. Look for their participation in training events. Allow them to do almost everything an adult can do. Don’t put limits on their leadership potential. I can’t wait for the day when we have a student who serves as a Coach, leading a group of adult/student leaders.

Have everyone champion the cause

In order to create a culture where students serving is normal, we have to help everyone champion the cause. You may run into some opposition from adult volunteers who are concerned that students who serve may be more trouble than helpful. For that reason, it’s important to make sure every volunteer knows how much you value students serving and how they can help.

Yes, there will be some students who shouldn’t be able to serve because they are too much trouble, just like some adults! It’s okay to make it clear that nobody, including students, has a free pass to do whatever. Ultimately, you want your leaders to understand why it’s important for students to serve and how they can set students up to succeed.

Where is your church in regards to students serving in ministry?

A Brand New Podcast for Family Ministry Leaders

Nick Blevins Family Ministry Podcast

I’m excited to announce a new podcast for leaders in Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, NextGen and Family Ministry! I know one of the best ways I have learned and grown as a leader over the years has been by learning from other leaders. That’s what this new podcast is all about.

What You Can Expect

Here’s what you can expect from me regarding the podcast.

Weekly Interviews With Leaders

Each week I interview a top leader and ask them about the principles and practices they use to lead in their context. We talk about everything from recruiting volunteers, to small groups, to partnering with parents, and much more. To make sure you get the most out of the podcast and never miss an episode, be sure to subscribe (scroll down for how).

New podcasts will hit every Tuesday morning. So, listen to Carey Nieuwhof’s first and then check out the new episode here.


In recording these first episodes one thing is painfully clear, and it’s that I have a long way to go toward becoming a good host. But, I’m reminded of this quote by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn:

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
– Reid Hoffman

Actually, both things he said are true here. I did launch too late, as this is something I’ve wanted to do for a couple years. But, I am embarrassed by my first version, yet didn’t wait until my hosting and interviewing ability was where it should be to launch. That’s okay, though, because the guests more than make up for it.

Applicable and Practical

I’ll work hard to make sure the content you’re hearing is applicable to your context and contains practical steps you can take after hearing an episode.

How You Can Help

Now that you know what to expect from me, here are some things I’d love your help with.

Subscribe and Listen Weekly

Subscribe in your favorite podcast player:  iTunes | StitcherTune In

Click here to get the RSS feed to use in any other podcast player

Leave a Rating

I would love for you to listen and leave a rating and review in iTunes and/or Stitcher. It will help other leaders learn about it and I truly value your feedback (no pretense needed). My goal is to consistently make it better. If you have some suggestions or questions you want to send directly, feel free to contact me.

Send Questions and Ideas for Guests and Topics

The best way to make sure we talk about something helpful to you is to suggest some guests, specific topics, and submit questions you have and would like input on. You can do that by replying to me on Twitter, posting on the Facebook Page, or by emailing me.

Share the Podcast

If listening to the podcast is helpful for you, please share it with your friends via email, social media, carrier pigeon, or whatever works for you.

Episode 001 – Elle Campbell on Small Groups and Partnering With Parents

Elle CampbellOur very first guest is Elle Campbell. Elle and I talk about the two most requested topics according to the NextGen / Family Ministry Survey I did earlier this yearSmall Groups and Partnering with Parents. Elle shares some great insights as she talks about transferring to a small group model in the middle school ministry she and her husband led in Buffalo, NY. She also talked about how they partnered with parents and we link to all the great resources mentioned in the interview.

Click here to see the Show Notes and listen to the podcast right here on the site.

New Episode Tomorrow!

There are 2 episodes for you right out of the gate, with the second one hitting tomorrow. I interview Frank Bealer, Family Pastor at Elevation Church, about how to help volunteers lead like staff. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

Special Thanks

A bunch of people helped me get this podcast going and I want to thank them here.

  • My wife Jennifer, for doing the intro and outro bumper for the podcast in addition to all her support.
  • Carey Nieuwhof, for helping me learn some of the behind the scenes stuff and how he makes his podcast so amazing.
  • Frank Bealer, for letting me use the Your Love Is song for the bumper, off the eKidz Worship Album Undefeated.
  • Kenny and Elle, for helping me learn how they launched their podcast YMAnswers and with all the technical stuff.
  • Rachel Walker, for helping me with the podcast production.
  • All the guests who agreed to do interviews before this thing was even launched… but I’m not telling you who yet!
  • Last, but not least…


Thanks to all of you in advance for your help. Thanks for listening, sharing, commenting, rating, and sending in ideas and questions. It’s going to be a fun ride and I really believe it will help all of us maximize our church’s potential. The work you do is critical and I hope this is an encouragement and a resource for you along the way.

My Takeaways From the 2016 Orange Conference

Orange Conference 2016 Monday is Coming

Last week I had my annual trip to the Orange Conference. It’s a week I look forward to every year. I posted notes from the first and second main sessions, but here are some general takeaways I had from the conference. It’s a random list in random order.

A Refocus on Mondays

The theme of this year’s conference was Monday is Coming, with the idea being that what we do throughout the week is potentially more important than what we do on Sundays. I came back with a renewed focus on investing in people outside of Sundays along with some ideas for how to do that.

The NextGen Role and Structure Are Growing

My position at our church involves overseeing staff who lead birth through high school, as well as the transition out of high school. This position, which has various titles in different churches (NextGen, Family Pastor, Family Ministries Director, etc.), is becoming more popular. More than that, the structure of having one team is more popular and I think that’s a good thing.

I’m Excited About NextGen Staffing Solutions

NextGen Staffing Solutions, a partner of Orange, launched last week. It’s a new staffing firm helping churches hire Children’s Pastors, Student Pastors and NextGen/Family Pastors. My friends Jim Wideman and Matt McKee are behind it, and they’ll do a great job connecting churches with leaders. Personally, I also hope churches will allow them to help the church get some things fixed before hiring someone into a position, should there be any issues that pop up.

Complexity is All Around

Every year I get to talk to a number of ministry leaders from all around, and this year I had more conversations than any other year. One thing stands out, and it’s the amount of complexity most leaders are dealing with. Whether it’s the healthy complexity of leading in a multisite environment or the bad complexities that come with lack of clarity in leadership, it’s everywhere. Leaders who are in good, healthy situations where things are clear, are rare.

Story is Powerful

This isn’t new, but it was on display at OC16. Multiple people shared stories from their life on opening night to help connect us to them and the message they were carrying. Reggie shared a powerful teaching and, as usual, told a story that brought some tears and helped us feel the weight and importance of investing in people outside of church.

Leaders Want to Network

Kenny Conley helps organize some networking opportunities for NextGen leaders and people respond really well to them. Leaders also jumped at the opportunity to be coached. I love the posture of wanting to learn and the heart to connect with other leaders and learn from what they’re doing.

If you attended, what were your takeaways?

That’s certainly not all of my takeaways, especially if you could see the list of things I need to process and save in order to come back to over the next month or so. If you attended or watched online, what did you walk away with?

Orange Conference 2016 Main Session 2 Notes

Orange Conference 2016

I’m at the Orange Conference this week, and I’m blogging notes from main sessions. Here are my notes from the second main session.

Andy Stanley

  • The church saved my life, in a preventative way.
  • You are preventing more than you can ever imagine in the lives of kids and students.
  • For Andy, the Church:
    • Informed his conscience – A conscience that is well-shaped in a child is an anchor for the rest of their life.
    • Instilled a sense of purpose
    • Provided the context for lifelong friendships
    • Served as a window into God’s activity all over the world
    • Taught me to be Jesus
  • Following Jesus will make your life better and make you better at life.
  • People followed Jesus before they believed.
  • The Church provides the strongest argument for the dignity of individuals and human rights.
  • “Classical philosophers considered mercy and pity to be character defects, contrary to justice. Not until Jesus did that attitude change.” – Philip Yancy
  • The Church inspires us to embrace the one mandate that could change everything – Love your neighbor as yourself.

Outside of your family, there’s nothing greater you’ll invest your life in than the local church.

Orange Conference 2016 Main Session 1 Notes

Orange Conference 2016 Monday is Coming

I’m at the Orange Conference this week, and I’m blogging notes from main sessions. Here are my notes from the first main session.

Monday is Coming

The theme of this year’s Orange Conference is Monday is Coming. The question we’re challenged with is:

Will what happens on Sunday matter in someone’s life on Monday?

Reggie Joiner

Sundays never has to be:

  • boring
  • superficial
  • irrelevant
  • exclusive
  • disconnected

You have to imagine someone’s Monday before you can re-imagine Sunday.

  • When you have a Monday mindset, you think about what’s coming the rest of the week.
  • When you only have a Sunday mindset, you measure success by how many show up.
  • When you have a Monday mindset, you focus on how many will come back.
  • Truth matters, when love matters.
  • Sometimes what you say doesn’t matter even if it’s true.
  • You can’t speak the truth in love if you don’t know the people you’re speaking to.
  • It’s not your job to fix anyone. It’s your job to love them.
  • It’s hard to speak the truth in love if you don’t know about someone’s Monday.
  • Empathy doesn’t change the truth; it enhances the truth.
  • Empathy is the ability to press pause on your own thoughts and feelings long enough to understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings.
  • We need to re-imagine how to knock on someone’s door the way Jesus talked about knocking on the door of our hearts.
  • There will be kids and families who will never step into your church until you step into their world.