Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
(Proverbs 22:6, ESV)
Imagine student ministry as an onramp. It is the road that transitions teenagers from the side-streets of childhood to the fast-paced highway of adult discipleship.
Got the picture? Now ask the question, is student ministry doing a good job of helping that transition?
The fact that some 60-70% of high school graduates leave the church within two years and only half ever return seems to say that it isn’t working. This conjures images from the 90’s movie Clueless, where a few teenagers accidentally find themselves on the freeway and instantly panic. Although they survive, they exit as fast as they can in tears; thankful to have survived the ordeal. They simply weren’t ready to handle the demands of the freeway, so they exited.
That is the same problem student ministry faces today. Too many students find themselves entering the highway of adult discipleship totally unprepared and looking for a quick exit. This was the motivation for SHIFT.
What do you imagine when you think of youth ministry? Pizza, roller coasters and laser tag? These things are fun, but what about discipleship, bible study and prayer? While fun and games certainly have a place in youth ministry, we should realize that these are like driving in first gear. Important, but not enough for the highway.
This helps us understand why the typical approach to youth ministry isn’t working. Many ministries are content to sit on the side streets, cruising around and having fun in first gear. Then, suddenly they are forced onto the freeway without ever shifting. Some decide to take the first exit, some lose control and crash, some just decide to stay on the side-streets of student ministry forever without growing up. Sound familiar?
The point of SHIFT is to encourage students to move progressively through stages that specifically prepare students to become lifelong disciples who love God and others.
1st Gear – Evangelize (Wednesday nights and events)
2nd Gear – Disciple (Sunday morning small groups)
3rd Gear – Assimilate (Sunday night family worship)
4th Gear – Involve (student leadership and parent connection)
5th Gear – Serve (service outings, mission trips and giving)