Welcome to Student Ministry with Jeff Travis

WTSM Jeff

The goal of “Welcome to Student Ministry” is to post interviews that help guide both new and experienced student pastors toward faithful ministry over many years. This second interview in this series is with Jeff Travis. Jeff serves as the Minister of Student Ministries at Lancaster Evangelical Free Church.

  1. Tell our readers some background information about how long you have been in student ministry, how you started, and anything else that you think would be useful.

I’ve been serving in student ministry since I was a senior in high school, so for 12 years now. I’ve been working as a youth pastor for 7 years. I got started in high school working with middle school guys because my youth pastor saw some gifts in me and asked me to serve. That started a journey of leading in student ministry in a variety of ways and getting encouragement to do so by several wise people in my life.

  1. How has your view of youth ministry changed from when you started to now?

From when I began as a youth pastor seven years ago until now, I think the biggest shift in my mind has been ministry to my leaders. As I lead a ministry with a lot of students, I’m foolish to think that I can disciple them all on my own. I’ve narrowed my focus a bit and have a handful of students I have close, disciple making relationships with, but now I spend a significant amount of time investing into my volunteer team. When we each have a few disciple making relationships, the reach is much broader than when just I do.

Also, smartphones have changed the game. I went to youth group as a student because it was the best thing offered on Sunday nights. Now we can’t compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime and SnapChat. I tried for a while to make what we were doing the most attractive option. Now I’m realizing that students crave relationships (I’m not talking about dating) but don’t know how to fulfill that. So that’s what we do, we offer a place for relationships to thrive and the gospel to be shared.

  1. Share one of your favorite student ministry moments.

I met a student when I started at my church when she was in middle school. She was one of the loudest most energetic middle school students I had ever met. She was a people magnet and a leader, but young and unaware. She struggled and changed in high school. I kept pushing her because I saw potential but she fought it. Eventually as a junior she reluctantly agreed to be a student leader and began to thrive. Her personality came back. A few months before she graduated, she was talking to me about feeling lost because she didn’t know what to do next. We talked about what her calling might be and I urged her to prayerfully consider going into full time ministry. She’s now a sophomore at a Bible college and still serving in our student ministry. It’s so cool to see God reveal his will to students and watch them embrace it!

  1. Share one of your least favorite ministry moments

I watched a student go through our ministry who came from a pretty difficult past. They struggled through their high school years but always seemed like they were on the brink of fully embracing the gospel and the community around them. But they never took that step and seeing the decisions they are making as they move into adulthood has been discouraging.

  1. What resources do you find helpful to use in student ministry?

Maybe not a perfect answer to the question – my volunteer team! They are so gifted when it comes to relating to and leading students. If I can set them up for success, there is little else needed.

If you teach with curriculum, ym360 is the best resource I’ve found for curriculum.

Logos is an incredible Bible study tool. I have no Greek or Hebrew training and rely a lot of Logos to fill that gap.

  1. What is one of two things that you do to make sure that you do so that you don’t burn out as a youth pastor?

I keep my schedule organized and thorough and I live off of my “Reminders” app. If I didn’t use my calendar or the reminders app, I would drop so many balls and fall behind and upset people. By using my calendar well, I can block out a dedicated day off so I don’t overwork myself and I can purposely block out family time that won’t be interrupted. I also take a monthly Day of Prayer to spend time in the Word, reading, listening to sermons, praying, practicing spiritual disciplines, etc…

  1. What advice would you give to yourself when you started as a youth pastor if you could go back to that time?

Be patient. It’s easy to make big plans and always want to get to the next big thing. God knows what your life holds and it’s better than you can plan. He’ll move you into those plans on his time. Invest in the now with your eyes set on eternity.

Thank you, Jeff, for taking time to answer these questions.  Two weeks from today I will post our third edition of “Welcome to Student Ministry” with a student pastor from Kentucky!

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