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 tenth interview in this series is with Zach Cochran. Zach serves as the pastor of student ministry at College Park Church in Indianapolis!
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 am in my 10th of student ministry. I started as an intern for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In that role, I was the chapel for a local sports team and lead some Bible studies at schools. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. During that football season, I began to disciple several students and grow close to them. As the season ended, students that were strangers months before were crying on my shoulder. I still wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
How has your view of youth ministry changed from when you started to now?
I started off in my ministry doing a lot of evangelism. I thought it was my job to evangelize and disciple everyone. I found my ministry hitting several roadblocks and experiencing a lot of frustration. I was trying to be a hero of sorts. That is when I realize the best way to disciple students is to disciple people that would disciple students.
Share one of your favorite student ministry moments.
I was planning a retreat for a group of High Schoolers and in planning the retreat I prayed for 6 particular guys in my ministry to giving their life to Christ on the retreat. They had resisted professing faith for several years but God burdened me for them. The last night of retreat, all of them individually approached me saying that they wanted to follow Jesus. It was a moment that changed me forever, experience the extreme power of prayer.
Share one of your least favorite ministry moments
In the middle of a lesson, I went to show a David Platt video. The computer clearly didn’t have spam or pop up blockers because several screen pornography began to pop up on the screen. I thought I would be fired that night.
What resources do you find helpful to use in student ministry?
Websites – Fuller Youth Institute, ERLC, TGC, DYL, Orange Ministries.
Podcasts – Lifeway Students, Youth Culture, Think Orange, DYM Podcast, Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast,
Books – Sustainable Youth Ministry, Hurt 2.0, Gospel Centered Student Ministry, Youth Ministry that Matters, Within Reach, Gen Z (Barna), Faith as Exiles.
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?
– Be in a regular rhythm of scripture reading and prayer.
– I am one that loves trying new things. I can start a new thing, blog, podcast, event everyday. That helps me but is exhausting for me and the people around. So I have to give the team around me the permission to tell me “we shouldn’t do this.” We are tempted to always think that new is better but what our students need is the basics of discipleship. They need people helping them follow Jesus. It is a helpful reminder that I don’t need to more and more.
– Find healthy addictions/habits (exercise, golf, art, music, etc)
What advice would you give to yourself when you started as a youth pastor if you could go back to that time?
– Develop leaders who disciple students
– Play the long game
– Preach short sermons
– Care less about what people think
Thank you, Zach, for taking time to answer these questions. In coming weeks I will post our eleventh edition of “Welcome to Student Ministry.”