"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Five Core Principles Core Principle #4: Penetrating the Student Culture

Penetrating Student Culture

Part 1

Dr. Barry St. Clair

Penetrating Student Culture

Part 1

Think back to your days in high school. Make a mental list of the things that were popular. What clothes were in? What was the car to drive? What music did you listen to? What did you do on Friday nights? What kind of parties did you have? What constituted a "hot date"? Now answer these same questions about your life as it is today. How has life changed since your high school days?

Face it. You have changed! But you aren't the only one. Walk down the hall at your local high school and you'll notice that student culture has changed as much as you have. Different hair styles. Different clothes. Different cars. Different values.

But the basic needs of students remain the same. What are some of those needs? And how can we begin to meet them?

The Needs of Students

Students need heroes.

Does that somehow sound unspiritual? Or juvenile? It really is not. Students are beginning to develop their own personal value systems and lifestyles. They look around to find people whom they consider successful, sharp, and content with life. Young people want to pattern their lives after these "heroes."

Students need love.

More specifically, they need role models of loving relationships. According to statistics, the average family spends less than 38 minutes each week in meaningful conversation. Such a lack of communication suggests to students that they are not important. Many students live with only one parent and miss out on having a full and rich relationship with the other. And many young people from two-parent families rarely detect a loving relationship between their father and mother. As a result, many students have no idea what real love is.

Students need hope.

Many students today realize the truth of Proverbs 13:12: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." High school campuses are filled with young people who feel like they have been let down by their family, their friends, and life itself. Some try to escape through drugs, sex, or suicide. Only Jesus Christ can give them a hope that "does not disappoint" (Rom. 5:5).

Students need purpose.

They are searching for answers to nagging questions like "Who am 1?" and "Why am I here?" The answers aren't easy. Students need to hear that they have a better option than "just getting by." They need to know that lasting purpose can be found in Jesus Christ. Only when they come "to know Christ and the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10) will they understand that they have been created for a specific purpose.

When facing similar needs, Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field" (Matt. 9:37-38). Jesus' exhortation has never been truer than it is today concerning the student culture. Students are becoming more open to change than ever before. This session will examine one exciting way that He can "send out workers" into the ripe fields of today's students. The method is called the Touch Ministry.

Building Strong Relationships

The Touch Ministry puts us as adults in touch with secular students so we can build relationships. Then out of those relationships we begin to introduce students to abundant life in Jesus Christ. The key to building strong relationships that meet students' needs is to go where they are.

It takes a special kind of individual to go where students are. The people who participate in the Touch Ministry need to begin with the following characteristics.

A desire to be with young people (Luke 15:1-2; John 1: 14).

If you want to reach students, you must move out of the secure, comfortable environment of the adult world into the world of the school campus and the local hangouts. After visiting a high school campus, one layman said, "The thought of going into their territory was a little overwhelming. When you think of how many unsaved students there are, it can be a little scary when you begin wondering if they'll accept or reject you. But when I got there I realized the impact we could have on students' lives. I was very encouraged at how well I was received by my own church's students. Their smiles told me how much it meant to them and how encouraging it was for them to have one of their youth leaders on their turf. I was surprised how many new relationships could be built by just being on campus."

A desire to win the friendship of young people (I Thes. 2:8).

Spending time with students is the key to building friendships. Teenagers spell love, T-1-M-E. As you show concern for them as individuals and try to learn what their interests and needs are, your friendships with students will deepen. As one youth leader said, "The Touch Ministry gives us credibility with the students who are outside of our church. If the only time they see us is on Sunday, it is easy for them to think that we don't understand what's going on in their lives and therefore don't care about them. Our being on campus makes students feel like they are important to us. They're right. They are important! "

A desire to see young people come to know Jesus (Matt. 4:19).

Availability and sensitivity to the needs of young people eventually provide the opportunity to share Christ openly, boldly, and lovingly. As one leader put it, "Nothing is quite as exciting as sitting down with a student one to one and telling him about Jesus Christ and then helping him ask Jesus into his life."

A desire to learn to love students right where they are (Luke 5:12-16).

Students today have a tremendous need for love. Try not to be scared by their actions, angry at their rebellion, or frustrated by their apathy. Students are crying out through their behavior for real relationships. Being involved in a Touch Ministry gives you the opportunity to work through your own feelings toward students and begin to really love them. One youth minister sums it up this way: "As a result of being part of a Touch Ministry, I feel a great compassion toward students. What they really need is love, encouragement, and someone who has a solution to their problems."

Take a few minutes to think about the students you are working with in your youth ministry. Pray that God will give you His love for them. What are some unique talents and gifts that you possess that will help you relate to students? Ask God to show you how you can begin to use those gifts and talents to minister to students.


1. What are some characteristics of student culture that you have recently observed?



2. Who are some people you could reach through a Touch Ministry?



3. Read Luke 5:12-16. What qualities did Jesus have that caused Him to touch the man in spite of his sickness?


What do you see in Jesus' approach to people that demonstrated His care for them?


4. What can you learn from this passage about ministering to students?


5. Do you feel like you have the basic desire needed to participate in a Touch Ministry? Why or why not?


6. Memorize Matthew 9:37-38.

Source Information

This article is from Building Leaders for Strategic Youth Ministry: Equipping Adults to Lead Students to Spiritual Maturity, by Barry St. Clair, pp. 56-58. Used by permission. This book is designed for use by youth ministers as they train other adults who want to be involved in youth ministry. It can be ordered through our bookstore by clicking "BUY RESOURCES" on the left menu or calling our office at 1-800-473-9456.


Barry St. Clair is founder and director of Reach Out Youth Solutions, which equips youth workers and young people for strategic ministry through the church around the world. He has worked with youth leaders and young people for over 30 years in evangelism and discipleship. Barry holds both Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministries degrees and is the author of numerous books.