Youth ministry, student ministry, youth group, youth pastor

Are your students rooted?

By Doug Franklin June 26, 2017

The reality is heartbreaking. So many students who have grown up in our ministries will hit college, desert the religion of their youth, and uproot their faith. Like seeds planted in rocky soil, they will look healthy as they sprout up, but they will soon wither away and fall to the wayside because they weren’t rooted deep in the soil.

The Why Behind Shallow Roots

The problem is that we make assumptions when we disciple students. We tend to assume that the right combination of programming, small groups, and teaching will produce mature disciples, all the while failing to realize that we’ve adopted a one-size-fits-all approach to student ministry. Let’s not forget that people—not programs—disciple students. It’s time to shift our thinking away from a one-size fits all mentality and create time and space for adult volunteers to enter into deep and meaningful relationships with students. Only then will we begin see discipleship take place and students’ roots grow deeper.

“Relationships are what allow us to customize the discipleship process.”

Relationships Help Give Roots

Relationships are what allow us to customize the discipleship process. When I was a youth pastor, I paired each student in our ministry with an adult volunteer, and I put my volunteers in charge of creating an individualized growth plan for every student. Volunteers would identify specific goals for students’ spiritual growth, and they would then determine what steps they could take to help students realize those goals. What a blessing it was to have volunteers discover their role to reflect, uncover, and resemble the truth that saves lives and makes disciples.

Track Growth to Gauge Depth

But the individualized growth plan was just the beginning. My adult volunteers also sought to track the growth and progress of each of their students. Rather than checking off that they’d covered a topic with a particular student, they began to track students’ growth by looking for traces of depth or warning signs. For example, the natural reaction of someone who deeply understands the truth about God’s character is growing awe and declining pride. Growing awe signifies a trace of depth in a students’ faith; whereas, growing pride signifies a warning sign. Tracking students’ growth gave my adult volunteers a clearer sense of direction and intentionality in their interactions with students. It prompted them to ask questions that would lead to growth or offer road signs to help guide students toward Christ.

As you prepare for a new season of ministry look for ways that you can move beyond the one-size-fits-all mentality. Challenge your adult volunteers to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships. And equip your volunteers to create and track students’ growth using an individualized growth plan. It’s true that no one but the Holy Spirit can transform the heart of a student, and only God can measure the true depth of a student’s faith. But as disciple-makers, we are responsible to teach and model what is true, and we are called to look for signs and clues that the truths we teach are taking root.


Looking for a resource to help your volunteers set goals and track students’ growth? Take a look at Know Growth.




About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More