Many of your students are just looking for someone to believe in them. You can be that person. Our guest today is Jay Sanders. Jay is the College Pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, FL. Jay shares the difference people made in his life simply because they believed in him and gave him opportunities to thrive.
Students need an adult to believe that God has called them to something special and to help them grow and fulfill their mission.
Jay grew up in foster homes until he found his forever home when his parents chose him, despite being told it would not go well. He came to faith after being invited to church when he was 7 years old. In high school he became involved in extracurriculars and church as an escape from a dysfunctional and sometimes abusive home. God used the teachers, coaches and youth leaders who believed in Jay to help him surpass expectations.
Who believed in you before you ever believed in yourself? And how did that influence you?
From day one, Elizabeth Long, his Sunday school leader pointed him towards Christ with love. Like most teachers, she could tell that something was probably going on at home. She took every opportunity to speak life into him and pointed him back to what the Word of God says about him.
God used a lot of teachers in his Christian school to help him overcome struggles in schoolwork as well.
In college, he had an urgency to go someplace where he could study the Word of God. After hearing about Word of Life from a friend, he attended at the Florida campus. During the first session of RA training, Tom Phillips spoke with contagious passion. Jay knew he wanted to hang around with him, and throughout the year at Word of Life, Jay got many opportunities to do so. Tom became a hugely important mentor in his life and played a large role in Jay becoming interested in ministry that invests in the next generation.
What have you learned that has changed the way you do ministry today?
Steven Furtick– “Inside of every little boy is a prince or a punk, and whichever one you speak to is the one that will rise up.”
Jay’s mentors were on the lookout for opportunities to encourage him. Jay prays daily asking God to put someone in his path who needs encouragement. Be willing to take the time to slow down and encourage someone when the Holy Spirit interrupts your day.
Jay’s mentors also gave him opportunities. They watched and discerned the gifts God gave him and provided corresponding opportunities. Tom had Jay intern with admissions because there was a lot of traveling, communicating and sharing the Word of God. Jay found that he felt at home and came alive in the opportunity.
How have those who believed in you impacted your ministry team building?
We focus on having students take their first or next steps, so strong leadership is needed. (Psalm 143:10) We began to develop student leaders by handing over ownership and opportunities to college students. Our team is called the Dream Team, and is made up of college students, ages 18-24. They speak into the vision of college ministry and are the hands and feet who make the vision a reality. “We meet monthly, rally weekly, and party often.” We invest in and equip them for leadership during our monthly training meetings. Then, 45 minutes before our Tuesday night college service, the Dream Team meets for prayer and goes through what the night will look like. Then they serve in different ways throughout the night. When students take charge, they own the night and the vision for the ministry. Always boost leadership morale by celebrating God’s wins in your ministry as a team.
When building your team, How much did you initiate and how much did they initiate?
Be intentional about sharing how important the role of their leadership would be in the vision of your ministry. From multiple platforms and individually, we told students that we believed they could change not only the world, but also the look of our ministry. On our Dream Team night, we had over 50 students show up interested, and 50 of them signed up after hearing the expectations and responsibilities involved.
Frustration with the next generation is too common in ministry. We need to believe in their ability to make a change in the circle they are in now. Show you believe in them by giving them opportunities to lead. Students will sometimes mess up, but if they do, we want it to be while they are surrounded by godly counsel in our ministry. Investing in students and giving them opportunities to lead empowers them. Succeed or fail, let your students go at it.
“Keep on keeping on.” Being in ministry to the next generation gets me excited every day because what takes place today will have a ripple effect on how the entire planet will look. The world can be at times discouraging. Hanging out with and investing in young people impacts the next generation and will have an impact on our future.
Jesus invested in young men. He called them to follow him and then turned the ministry over to them. Some of them even failed, but they kept going at it.
As a youth leader, release control of your ministry. Involve student leaders and empower them to do what God has called them to do.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Your student may look fantastic but could be walking through a mess at home. See them and give them opportunities to grow.