I haven’t pastored long, but one thing that I am learning as a student pastor is that I need to be a better follower than a leader.

We can’t escape it, and it’s a good thing that the desire to lead with vision is in us. As the leader of our student ministries, we should have a goal, a mission to accomplish for the students that we have been privileged and selected to pastor. But the solo mentality has been the decline of many student ministries and churches alike. Let’s look at the average scenario: the student ministry is misaligned, in a separate room or on a separate night from the rest of the church body. And often the student pastor is left to do their own thing. Often becoming a church within a church. It’s the thought that “as long as the church van is clean everyone is happy.”


But is it really? There are many student pastors who have their own vision for their ministry, which is vital considering that the alternative is not having a vision at all. But I feel one of the most important decisions we can make as a student pastor is to honor and instill our senior pastor’s vision for the church within our respective student ministries.

It blows my mind to hear so many student ministry workers who allow their vision for their ministry to veer separately from the overall vision of the senior pastor and their church as a whole. Of course! Having our own vision for our ministry is great. But can we allow it to divert the vision or even offer a competing vision of the direction of our senior leader?


When any ministry does not match the vision of their church, it can cause some serious issues. Although it may not be our intention, it can create division within the church. We all have probably heard of horror stories of churches collapsing or splitting because of this. One ministry is doing well and the church is not and it’s because they are headed in another direction, even if it’s the right direction, and it creates tension. It will create division when within one church, there needs to be unity.

I believe, at it’s root, that this may be one of the causes of the short tenure of many student pastors, which is already alarming when the average tenure length is 1 year. But what is an even harder pill to swallow, especially for those of us that take seriously the longevity of our student’s connection to their faith, is the post-high school transition (or lack thereof) into the church body as a young adult.

Statistics tell us that within five years following high school graduation, roughly 75% of our students who have graduated are no longer connected with a local church. Honestly, that just brings tears to my eyes typing that statement. My mind instantly goes to all of the ball games, band/choir concerts, camps, retreats, services, texts, phone calls and every other attempt we make to create a lasting impact on our students and the one avenue that we know can help sustain them in their faith walk, which is the church, we find that they are totally disconnected from it.

It is speculated that the reason for this is students were never really a part of the church body, just a part of a student ministry that headed in a different direction than the rest of their congregation.

Below are some pretty difficult questions I’ve had to recently ask myself about the ministry God has appointed me to. My prayer is that I continue to align my vision, culture, and strategies with the vision of our church and that you would be challenged to do the same:

• Do you know the heartbeat of your senior pastor for the students in your church?

• Do you know the clear and defined vision of your church?


What is the vision of your church? What is the vision of your student ministry? Are they the same? This question is very simple but, it is the most important question that, unfortunately, a lot of student pastors never really ask themselves.

Your church has a vision and it should match the vision of your senior pastor. There are so many student ministries that have a vision statement, which is awesome, but do they really match the vision of their church?

It’s like the church is headed in one direction and I think in order for us to be most effective in the lives of our students we need to make sure our vision statements are very similar if not the same.

We want our values to be the same:

Calvary Church’s Vision: 

To give you the best opportunity to become a developing follower of Jesus Christ by helping you to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose and Make A Difference. 

All Out Student’s Vision: 

To give you the best opportunity to become a developing follower of Jesus Christ by helping you to Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Purpose and Make A Difference. 

Well, there is definitely no double vision there! While I would have loved to create my own statement, I’m really beginning to learn and buy into the importance of alignment. What this does, is it leaves little room for doubt on where our heart lies when it comes to why we do any of our programs as a church. Every pastor, every leader, is now clearly headed in the same direction, eliminating all of the friction and tension from anything that may be contradictory.


Now it’s all about creating a model, systems, and programs that point further into accomplishing that vision and allowing ourselves to let go of anything that may not be doing that.

If we broke down our vision this is what you would see.


God wants to know you personally. More than just practicing religion, He wants to have a relationship with you.

OUR CHURCH BODY: Our Sunday Services are where we focus on helping people know God.

OUR STUDENT MINISTRY: First Wednesday services are where we focus on helping students and their friends discover and know God.


We all have things from our past that need to be settled once and for all. God’s process for you to experience freedom from yesterday is to have the right people in your life.

OUR CHURCH BODY: Connecting with the church through Small Groups is how we find life-changing community at Calvary.

OUR STUDENT MINISTRY: Connection with each other through TRIBES (small groups) every Wednesday is how we find life-changing community at All Out Students.


If you are looking for hope in a hopeless world, you will find it in your calling. You are an important part of God’s plan, and your life will never make sense until you discover your purpose.

OUR CHURCH BODY: Our Growth Track is made up of three classes designed to help you in this important step.

OUR STUDENT MINISTRY: Our Growth Track is made up of three classes designed to help you in this important step.


This step is God’s ultimate plan for your life—to make a difference in the lives of others. When you make a positive impact on people’s lives by doing what you do well, it is then that the Bible says your joy will be complete.

OUR CHURCH BODY: Through our Dream Team, we hope to connect every person to an opportunity to live their calling by serving others.

OUR STUDENT MINISTRY: Through our Dream Team, we hope to connect every person to an opportunity to live their calling by serving others.

All of the programs at our student ministry are similar and represent how we accomplish the vision of our church. They are designed specifically for students, with some of the programs mixing adults and students together.

What this does is creates a likeness with a familiar environment and culture that students would easily assimilate into when they graduate, all while furthering the vision of our church as a whole.

When students graduate from our program and enter the church as an adult, there is no real change to what their values and vision are. They have known, participated in, and owned the values from our senior pastor from the very moment they entered our ministry.

I encourage you to discover what vision your senior pastor has for your church and begin to implement the programs that will further that in this next season of your student ministry.

(originally published in the Fall 2017 Destiny Magazine)

Manny is a DLI Graduate, class of 2015. His start in ministry began seven years ago as an intern at his local church, just two weeks after graduating high school. Since then, Manny has poured his love for God and people into numerous areas such as kids, students, young adults, and even media production. He is passionate about seeing young people and young leaders find their purpose and encouraging them to passionately pursue Jesus. Today, Manny is the lead student pastor at Calvary Church of Fort Worth, Texas.