In youth ministry the concept of pastoral care for students can be a little unclear. I would love to start a conversation about what pastoral care for students should look like. I’ve talked with a lot of youth workers and leaders about this and I usually get one or two answers.
- “Well, it’s on a case by case bases.” – what does that even mean?!?!
- “Who ever knows the kid well enough and their personalities kind of click handles pastoral care.”
For most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, we are just winging it. I can tell you that if there isn’t an intentional plan it is most likely not being done. I like to think pastoral care is a proactive response of ministry. We think about what is the ministries response to students who are going through tough situations in their faith and life, and how can we be proactive in our response. Most of the time when we give the answers above it’s because we have made some assumptions by default.
A few assumptions we make about our ministry when it comes to Pastoral Care are:
- Our programs are good enough.
- Our kids are serving so they must be on the right path.
- Attendance equals growth – students who come to every event you have are healthy.
- Our small group leaders are handling it.
I definitely believe this is an area we must be intentional about and we must make this just as much of a priority as the programs we create for fellowship, evangelism, etc… I learned from my own ministry that there are students I will over look who are struggling with their faith or are having major issues going on at home because of my assumptions and lack of intentionality. So what are the steps I took towards being intentional in this area? Well, first I had to ask myself some questions about the ministry.
- Have we made pastoral care a priority?
- Within the programs we do have, how can we create opportunities to care for students better?
- Are we training our leaders to care for students, or are we assuming since they signed up that they know what to do? – most of the time if we are winging it than they are to.
- Are we assuming that our core students have it all together because of participation?
Here are a few ideas that we’ve implemented:
- Our large group time volunteers have been trained to be proactive. We have really maximized our time with our students by commissioning our leaders to not just be available but be active. Check out – Active or Just Available?
- Prayer during service for students that is tied into the service. – We’ve also had them fill out a “contact me” card just so we can follow up for continue care if needed. Most of the time you will get students who need prayer but also some guidance, so being able to follow-up is critical.
- We also give each student a prayer request card so they can fill it out and request prayer. We are intentional about not being super generic about those who need to fill them out. Example: If the message is about students making bad decisions, then we will ask those students who have done so to write “contact me” on the back of the card if they need someone to talk with. We work that part into the message because it carries more weight than just making an announcement.
- We used a “text in” if you are dealing with porn. So students were able to text in for someone to contact them and talk with them about their struggle with porn.
- Grab a group of trusted volunteers to meet with core students one on one. Your core students would love it. I can tell you from experience, the students who are there all the time need to be met with. Those are the students who get the less care because of the attendance equals growth factor.
- Start a prayer chain with your leaders for the ministry and students. – This can be open to any church member who is willing to spend a few minutes in prayer a week for the ministry. – If I was listing in order of importance this would definitely be at the top.
- Training our staff and volunteers on how we will respond to students who are dealing with hot topic issues like same sex attraction, self harming, etc…
These are some super simple things that we’ve added to our ministry. These are just examples of what we’ve done. You know your ministry better than me, so come up with your own ideas for your students. The point I want you to get out of this post is to be intentional about caring for your students. Just because the students are coming out and sharing things voluntarily doesn’t mean it is not going on. We have have to think proactively.
Would love to hear more ideas on how you are caring for your students.
hope it helps