...uniting African Baptist to fulfill the Great Commission

The Challenge of Students' Ministry in the 21st Century: African Baptists Experience


The history of student involvement in missions is interesting, inspiring and challenging. Brilliant and talented students, with sound academic background, and prosperous future were used of God as mission catalysts. Some were used to cast vision, and some were used as foot soldiers to mobilize human, financial resources, and volunteers to serve overseas. They counted it all joy for the surpassing glory of the Lord and the growth of His kingdom.

This article examines why some Baptist Conventions and Unions in Africa are not reaching out to students or embracing the ministry enthusiastically in spite of its success stories in Germany, England, and America. Using Nigerian Baptist Convention student ministry experience, the article suggests what Baptist Conventions and Unions in Africa can do to “own” the ministry in the 21st Century.

The Beginning of Students Involvement in Missions

The earliest known student involvement in world outreach was in Germany, in the early seventeenth century.

  • 1. Be intentionally relational: The Pastor as the leader, is to a great extent responsible for the quality of relationship that exists between him and the Deacons. To help Deacons serve well, he must carry himself in a way that is transparent. The pastor must avoid the temptation to treat his support leaders as rivals. He should intentionally cultivate a friendly relationship with his deacons. He should demonstrate that he truly cares about the total wellbeing of his deacons, their spouse and household.
  • 2. Keep them focused on Christ: The Pastor's main agenda must be to get his support leaders to know, understand and implement the agenda of Christ. Deacons that are not being led by the pastor to grow in God will find it difficult to see the glory of God in their pastor. Deacons who feel the pastor is manipulating them to support his personal agenda will eventually lose their respect for the pastor. The Pastor needs to create a forum that will nurture the spiritual growth of his deacons.
  • 3. Treat them with respect: You need to let your deacons know that you value their commitment, gifts, skills and opinion. People work best when they feel valued and respected. Demonstrate your commitment and loyalty to them the same way you expect them to be committed and loyal to you as the leader. You can show respect for team members by asking for their suggestions, keeping them informed, treating them fairly, encouraging them, and acknowledging their accomplishments.
  • 4. Define and communicate responsibilities: Let your deacons understand where you are leading the church and the roles they are expected to play. It is important for them to know the destination and the direction you have in mind. Provide a clear ministry description and allow their input. A good ministry description states specific responsibilities, how much authority the team members have, who they are accountable to, and the length of time they are to serve.
  • 5. Train workers in the skills necessary to meet the standards: Churches that are in decline have leaders who see their jobs as doing the ministry for the people and vice versa. However, in growing churches, leaders equip and mobilize people for the work of ministry. Make the training and mentoring of your deacons a priority. Training is the key to an effective team. No team wins without training and practice. Send your people to workshops, seminars, and conferences that deal with the skills and knowledge they need in order to develop. Use a variety of methods to make training an ongoing process. Training can be done by mentoring, on-the-job training and in team meetings. The essence of the training process is:
  • a. Model - I do it and you watch.

    b. Assist - You do it, and I watch.

    c. Delegate - You do it.

    d. Assign - You do it, and train someone else.

  • 6. Be an Effective Information Manager: Provide the information people need to succeed. You need to be careful and intentional about how you share information. Don't create division among your deacons through poor information management. Don't be selective in sharing the information all your deacons need about organizational goals, plans, and changes. Without information, people cannot take responsibility, and they will not be as creative and productive as they should be. You need to also share information about special dates or anniversaries to enable your team bond positively.
  • 7. Deal with Failures Effectively: When it is necessary to confront your deacons for committing sins, moral infractions, doctrinal deviations or poor ministry performance, keep in mind these guidelines:
  • a. Confront privately, not publicly.

    b. Deal with the situation as early as possible.

    c. Address only one issue at a time, and be specific.

    d. Direct your criticism to the action, not the person.

    e. Avoid sarcasm and anger.

    f. Try to get the person to admit responsibility.

    g. Sandwich criticism between compliments.

    h. State your suggestions, expectations or conclusions clearly. Don't be ambiguous.

  • 8. Recognize efforts and achievements: Regularly reinforce the uncommon efforts and positive performance of your deacons. Remember, you get what you reward. Without being dramatic or manipulative you need to make heroes of your deserving deacons. Compliments and public recognition are essential. Shine the spotlight on their 'outside-the -church' accomplishments. Make sure the recognition conveys sincere appreciation.
  • 9. Trust your team: Building trusting relationships through delegation of task is essential. However, you need to distinguish between trust in character and trust in ability. Some have strong, mature character but little ability. Others have less mature character but great ability. As the leader of the team you can demonstrate trust by:
  • a. Listening to ideas, dreams, and plans.

    b. Delegating significant assignments or responsibilities.

    c. Sharing your dreams, visions, and plans; and being honest and open about your own mistakes and vulnerabilities

    d. Allowing your deacons to be a part of the goal-setting and problem-solving process.

  • 10. Create forum for Joint Spiritual Disciplines: You need God to manifest His presence and power if you want to support your deacons for successful service. Corporate spiritual disciplines or exercises are some proven means of receiving grace. You will find engaging in joint retreats, worship, scripture study, fasting and praying as effective means of being on the path of those who receive grace for building healthy churches.
  • Deacons: Empowering Your Pastor(s) to Serve with Distinction

    Pastors have one of the toughest jobs in the world. For one thing, they have multiple "bosses." Regardless of church polity, they have to answer to every church member. It does not matter if your church is small or large - the work of the pastor weighs heavily as he seeks to balance time between the needs of his personal family and the church family. Your pastors need honor, love, support, and blessing to function optimally. You need to overwhelm your pastors with love and appreciation if you want a healthy church. 1 Thess. 5:12, Heb. 13:7.

    Someone noted that “when Deacons are all that they should be and do what they are ordained to do, the church would become all that it should be.” Since deacons are the real force behind many successful ministers and ministries, what you do to and for your pastor will determine what your church becomes. As a deacon you have the responsibility of encouraging your pastor to live a faithful and truthful life. Here are just a few of the creative ways in which you can honor and partner with your pastor in order to make your church healthy:

    1. Pray for the Pastor – Romans 15:31. Pastors are always in need of prayer. They cannot accomplish anything of lasting, supernatural impact through their own strength. Pastors can feel the difference when the people of the church pray for them. It is hard to criticize and undermine the ministry of those whom we pray for. Prayer is the key to the spiritual power of the church, and deacons should be exemplars of prayer in the church. What can your body of deacons do to increase the amount of prayer support for your pastor?

    2. Promote the vision of the pastor – Pastors are charged with being the vision casters for the church, but deacons can help that vision become a reality. Good deacons listen attentively to the desires of their pastors, and seek to meet them. When deacons demonstrate their loyalty to their pastor, they can be a great encouragement to the pastor. What can you do to show your pastor you are on the same side with him as he ministers?

    3. Praise – Recognize your pastor's gifts. Tell your pastor with sincerity, "God has really gifted you in (choose one: preaching, teaching, counseling, wisdom - whatever fits). It is good to see Him using you in that way." Be truthful, and don't flatter. 1 Thess. 5:11

    4. Protect – shield the pastor and his family from unjust criticism – 1 Tim.5:19. Stand up for your pastor when he is not present to defend himself. Whenever you hear people criticize your pastor, encourage them to go directly to him with those comments. Do not stand for gossip. Do not tell someone else what you heard about the pastor. That is gossip. If you agree with what the other person is saying about your pastor, then make your own appointment and get things settled between the two of you. What can you and other deacons do to protect your pastor from disgruntled critics?

    5. Pay – 1 Tim. 5:17 Work with the deacon body and leadership of the church to make sure that your pastor is well taken care of by the church. Pay him by providing a good salary. Make sure he gets sufficient rest, time off, and family time. Give some money toward the tuition of the children of the pastor if they are in fee-paying school. Celebrate your pastor's anniversary. Creatively find some way to mark the anniversary of when your pastor came to your church, either on the very day or on the weekend closest to it. Remember other special dates like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

    6. Provide Counsel – Proverbs 15:22. Sometimes the pastor needs to be pastored himself as he walks through personal setbacks and sorrows. Deacons can serve as truth-tellers and accountability partners. They can also to help their pastor progress in his own spiritual pilgrimage. To help your pastor, you should strive to be a trusted confidant and friend.

    7. Presence: Pastoral ministry can be lonely. Most pastors appreciate having deacons who go along with them for evangelistic visits, hospital visits, shut-in visits, and nursing home visits. Your presence may enhance the quality of your pastor's care ministry.

    Good deacons are always problem solvers. Because they are respected and trusted leaders in their church and community, they are in a unique position to solve problems that arise within the church. Deacons can intervene among the people of the congregation to soothe hurt feelings, mediate disagreements, clear up misunderstandings, and resolve personality conflicts.

    Rev. Dr Jerry Akinsola

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