4 Ways to Move Students Forward in their Faith

I’m in Maui this week fighting with the waves on the beach. (tough job but somebody has to do it!) I got thinking about students who seem to make some progress and like caught in the under tow, get pulled to sea. Instead of progressing some students get worse with age until they finally abandon their faith.

On the other hand there are those. that although they may be pummeled by the same waves of culture and academic expectations, they manage to rise above them and move on with their faith. For many of these students it was because they had a great family and great coach helping them to get up and move on. Here are 4 ways they help move students forward in their faith: 

1. Constant Connection

Can you imagine if Jesus met with his disciples every second Tuesday of the month but not in the summer months? How in the world would they be ready to lead the church in only 3 years. Excellent youth disciplers or faith coaches are constantly in connection with the students they work with. Text messaging makes this very possible.

In know that this can be very demanding for a leader and so they can only handle 3 or 4 like this at a time. Some only choose one and stick with them all the way into the college years.

2. Sharing Spiritual Disciplines

You can call this accountability or mentoring but a great adult leader will help a student develop and maintain spiritual disciplines. Students know that they should do this but for years they may need a parent or leader to sit with them and do devotions with them.

I developed a simple sheet that my students could complete each day. All the students who took on this challenge would hand these in to me each Friday night. Only 12 out of 40 did this consistently but it did help them develop a habit that carried into their college years.

A big part of sharing the disciplines is mutual accountability. The adult leader needs to honestly share their devotional life with the student so that the student feels free to do the same. Confession is part of this as well. A student needs to feel safe to share their failings. If they cannot the discipling relationship will be broken.

3. Involvement

I have this axiom; Maximum Involvement=Maximum Growth. Wise leaders help students find a place to serve. Some serve in the youth ministry while others serve with children, in senior’s homes, in summer ministries, on drama teams, or the worship ministry of the church.

James said that faith without works is dead. Show me a teen who has no ministry or “works” and I will show you a teen who is struggling to maintain their faith. A good discipler will help a student use their natural and spiritual gifts in some sort of ministry and challenge them to greater levels of service.

4. Goal Setting and Sharing

I got this one from Duffy Robbins years ago but it’s even truer today! Anyone who has ever accomplished anything set a goal. Most times they also set small short term goals and measured their progress each week.

This has worked wonders for people at Weight Watchers who weigh in every week. I have seen it also work for students trying to memorize scripture or overcome an addiction. I have used this with students to help them acheive everything from keeping their room clean to preaching a message.

An excellent disciple maker helps students set appropriate goals and then provides motivation, encouragement, and finally celebration when the goal is reached.

Move them Onward

There’s a time to retreat and there’s a time to advance. Too few students are advancing in their faith and too often adults assume that because they are getting older they are becoming mature in their faith. What I am suggesting here is going to take a ton of commitment from pastors, adult leaders and parents but we can’t leave something so important to chance!  Intentionally understanding where a student is at and constantly encouraging, motivating, challenging and keeping them accountable will help move them toward maturity.

What are some of the ways that work for you?

Share this:

Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com