Ministry Made From Scratch

My mom can cook better than your mom. Now I’m sure we all think this about our moms, at least I hope so… But seriously, my mom is a culinary ninja. I remember waking up Saturday mornings to her wearing an apron dusted in flour because she was making biscuits from scratch. She would have nothing to do with canned biscuits. Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a package of canned biscuits? It’s like a mile long. Sure, they’re quick. Sure, they taste fine. But deep in our hearts, we know that there is a better way to go. How many ingredients are in my mom’s biscuits? Five. Just five.

For the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to make a student ministry from scratch. My church is launching their very first multi-site and I have the privilege of being the Student Pastor. The first few weeks on the job I looked for a canned ministry that I could pop in the oven but I couldn’t find anything that would work. I can’t tell you how many emails and calls I made to other student pastors, how many churches I visited and websites I surfed. I spent countless hours looking for the ingredients of someone else’s biscuit. The recipes I found looked tasty but I couldn’t figure out how they were made. I came to the conclusion that there is not a canned student ministry. Why are we distracted by someone else’s programs, strategies and philosophies when they ultimately won’t work our context? If I was going to bake an effective ministry I needed to go back to basics. I needed to cook the way my mom taught me. Simple and made from scratch. Here are the five ingredients that must be found in every ministry:

A generous amount of the BIBLE.
Our ministries must be biblically focused. The Bible alone is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. Our best ideas are not. Therefore, we must base our preaching, teaching, ministry and counseling — everything — on God’s Word.

A bowl full of RELATIONSHIPS.
Our approach to discipleship needs to be relational. Life change doesn’t happen by simply transferring information. It happens by knowing and being known. We want our students to move from being spectators to being personally-engaged followers of Christ. Students need to connect with people, not programs.

Our gatherings, events and experiences must be memorable. Whether it’s unforgettable because it was powerful, unique, meaningful, convicting or funny, our aim is always to offer the very best to our students. We want to draw them back (along with their friends) because we have the greatest news in the world to offer them!

A big scoop of UNITY.
We need to remind ourselves that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our student ministries exist within a church. We need to make decisions and plan in a way that unites with the church at large. If your student ministry is teaching a different gospel or pursuing a different vision, stop cooking and throw your dough away. Ask your senior pastor or elders to critique your recipe.

Season everything in PRAYER.
Apparently it’s rude to season your food before you taste it. Pray through every big decision you make. No matter how stressed or anxious you are, pray about it. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Prayer is our direct pipeline to the Living God. Don’t make the mistake of serving your biscuit without seasoning it first.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Johnny Farr works in youth ministry at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Forth Worth, TX. He is in the process of launching a student ministry for a new multi-site! Follow Johnny on Twitter: @JonathanLFarr


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You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!



My favorite Christmas movie of all time is the Christmas Story. I’ve seen this movie every year for the past 20 years! Every time I watch it, I notice new nuances that extend my love for the story.  Yet one theme remains that speaks to me year after year.

A common thread throughout the movie is Ralphie asking for a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. Every time he asks the adults in his life for the gun, he continually bumps into opposition from them. Every response of theirs is the same: “You’ll shoot your eye out.” On Christmas morning, Ralphie looks frantically for a box that could hold this BB gun but to no avail. He receives several presents but is disappointed that he did not get the gun. As he accepts this fact and sits with his parents, his dad points out a hidden present, the BB gun. By giving Ralphie a BB gun, his dad takes the risk of placing him in a position that comes with great responsibility. In doing so, Ralphie’s dad also communicates to his son, “I believe in you.”

Every time I see this movie, I’m reminded of the opportunity we have as youth pastors to challenge, empower, and equip our students. Believing in a student’s potential is one of the most powerful actions we can do. Think about a person who believed in you. What have you done in your life because someone believed in you? Now, let’s turn these thoughts toward the students in our ministry who are waiting to be challenged to a higher calling of leadership–the ones who are desperately looking for someone to believe in them. Are you willing to challenge, empower and equip these students?

If you are willing, you can call students into leadership.  I am convinced that a healthy, thriving student ministry needs to place students in positions of leadership–real leadership, not just stacking chairs and running slides. We need to cast a vision that ultimately challenges them to take part in extending the Kingdom of God through the great commission. Here are four ways to call students into leadership:

Provide Structure: Provide a structure of next steps so students know exactly what’s expected and how to proceed. Create a system and make sure it doesn’t communicate that students can “arrive” to a level of greatness. Leadership is ultimately a call to humility.

Personally Ask: Talk one-on-one with your students and paint a picture of what it would look like for them to lead in your ministry. Try it this week. Put a caring arm around one of them and say, “I’ve been noticing that you have an amazing heart! I believe God can use that heart for his purposes.” Don’t just say it once. Repeat it and rephrase it often.

Talk To Others: Talk to the people you know in your church and ask them who they believe in. After you’ve gathered some names, go to those students and encourage them by saying, “I talked to ‘Pedro’ and he really believes that you can be a leader in our ministry. I’d like to invite you to consider this opportunity.”

Be Strategic: Approach students who are already showing signs of biblical leadership because they are currently serving in your ministry. Jesus turned the world’s leadership model upside down when he required leaders to serve. Don’t simply focus on the popular kids but look to those who are serving.

Who do you believe in? Are you willing to challenge, empower and equip that student?  There are students in your ministry who have never had someone believe in them because of the risk involved. They could shoot their eye out, but the risk is worth taking.


– I dedicate this blog to the youth pastors who believed in me, Josh McCasland and Kevin Libick.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Johnny Farr works in youth ministry at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Forth Worth, TX. He is in the process of launching a student ministry for a new multi-site! Follow Johnny on Twitter: @JonathanLFarr


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